Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CIV: Dave Cole

Dave hails from Somerset, but lives in London, having arrived by way of Brazil, Spain and the USA. He will be marrying Alice this summer. He blogs at and works at the Atlantic Council of the United Kingdom.

What made you decide to start blogging?

Not to put too fine a point on it, depression. I started blogging at as a sort of catharsis; I certainly found it helpful and cathartic, in a way. I suppose I still do.

What is your best blogging experience?

I think being linked to by the Guardian (thankyou, Dave and Cath). And all the people I've met.

And your worst?

I'm not sure I've had any particularly bad experiences, to be honest.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

I thought that 'An artificial womb' was quite interesting.

Favourite blogs?

Lots. Off the top of my head, and in no particular order, Tiberius Gracchus, Richard Bartholomew, The F Word, Sadie Smith, Ministry of Truth, Bloggerheads, Lib Con, Penny Red, Stumbling and Mumbling.

What inspired you to go into politics?

Am I in politics? Goodness. I don't think anything actually inspired me to go into politics. I've always been interested in – well, for as long as I can remember – and so, I suppose, I've always been 'in' politics – albeit in a small way.

I know how I became involved in student politics – it was an argument over a toilet. I'd organised a debate competition at LSE and the conferencing people had managed to double book... the gents. Each room has a number – including the toilets – and for some reason, a loo was listed as a classroom. In fairness, that was the only problem I had with room booking in five years at LSE; given that I was in the habit of booking out entire buildings (for debate competitions...), that's pretty good going.

How long do you think Mugabe will last in power?

For a good while yet. He had an opportunity to hand over at least some of his power to the Tsvangarai and the MDF, moderated by the Mutambara faction, but seemed unable to relinquish it. Given that internal pressure has not been enough, it will require a combination of international pressure, pressure from neighbouring states (who have more sway than, say, the UK) and the effects of the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. The unity government is not going to receive any substantial foreign aid as local countries are suffering with the global financial situation and the broader international community isn't going to be forthcoming with cash so long as Mugabe retains actual (as opposed to ceremonial) power. That might end up causing the army to revolt. It may well end up being a combination of factors or a wild card or Mugabe's death, through natural causes or otherwise.

How do you see Labour evolving as a political party within the next few years?

I'm really not sure. It is very much tied into the national political scene. If Labour were to win the next election, the Tories would have lost four elections on the trot and David Cameron might well run into trouble in the middle of the following term.

There is, however, a problem with politics generally at the moment; a certain dissatisfaction, a certain sense of ennui. I don't want to over-egg the pudding, but I don't think that our democracy is doing massively well at the moment. That's not something unique to the UK, but it does affect all the major political parties in the UK. That much can be seen not just in the rise of single-issue campaigns, but also in the proliferation of 'minor minor' parties such as the English Democrats, Respect (or whatever it's called today) and so on.

All of that is to say two things; firstly, a week is a long time in politics. Secondly, the process by which the Labour party operates is going to be as important as the outcome. If Labour does – heaven forfend! - lose the next election, it will have to take the opportunity to honestly and thoroughly reassess itself. That will mean criticism of the party by the party and acknowledgement of past mistakes; that is no easy thing to do for any organisation. I am quite sure that until there is a focus on building the membership, Labour is going to continue to have a bumpy ride.

Where that will end up, I don't know.

I would add that, depending on the effects of coalitions on the Lib Dems at the next election, the rise of something like the Spanish UPyD is not impossible.

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

Lots of places – Cape Verde is one of them. I'd like to get round all fifty US states; I'm at nineteen at the moment. Savannah, GA, and Santa Fe, NM, would be two cities and I'd like to see some of the land art in Utah.

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

Granada is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited – I've probably been half-a-dozen times, mostly on excursions from a summer camp I worked on in Andalusia.

Who, excluding the present leader and Prime Minister, do you regard as the best

British Prime Minister, and if different, the best Labour leader?

I think Herbert Morrison and Hugh Gaitskell must be serious contenders for greatest PM we never had. Although he was never (I believe) a contender for the top job, Ernest Bevin was one of the great politicians of his time.

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Simon Bolivar, perhaps. He's certainly a figure of great interest to me.

Favourite Bond movie?

I really liked Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, but I'm still going to go for Dr No.

Favorite Doctor Who?

I'm one of the few people who would go for Sylvester McCoy as he was my 'first' doctor.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Vanilla, without a shadow of a doubt.

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

Bauhaus, I think.

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

Um... I'm moving to near Cambridge soon. Beerintheevening says there's no pub in Barsby. Oxford it'll be, then.

Favourite national newspaper?

The FT for news, the Guardian for comment. Monde Diplo is always worth a read.

What would you say your hobbies were?

I enjoy photography and spend quite a lot of time tinkering with my computers. I'm trying to read more and I like real ale.

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books

(Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

Gringo Honeymoon by Robert Earl Keen

Què volen aquesta gent? Gent by Maria del Mar Bonet

Sugar Baby by Dock Boggs

Bookwise, I'd probably include Johnny got his Gun by Dalton Trumbo, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller Jr and The Saddest Summer of Samuel S by JP Donleavy.


Robb WJ Ellis said...

Allow me to please correct a number of errors with regards to the question about Mugabe...

"He had an opportunity to hand over at least some of his power to the Tsvangarai and the MDF, moderated by the Mutambara faction, but seemed unable to relinquish it."

The sharing of power was not moderated by Mutambara - indeed Mutambara is an interested party in the power sharing. The talks were mediated by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki.

And that mediation was slow, very confused and convoluted - and the 'agreement' which was signed by Mbeki, Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara has not really shown anything worth talking about.

Finally, Tsvangirai and Mutambara each head factions of the split Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). MDF is "medium density fibreboard"...

I will back you on the idea that Mugabe is unable to relinquish any power to anybody.

Good luck with the politics!

Dave Cole said...

That's moderated not in the sense of the Mutambara faction organising the talks but in the sense of the presence of that faction giving Mugabe an opportunity to save face by not having to transfer power directly and solely to the Movement for Democratic Change.

You're absolutely right, though, that medium-density fibreboard does not play a significant role in Zimbabwean politics except, perhaps, when being wielded as a club my Mugabe's thugs.