Thursday, April 30, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXI: Brian Barder

(Brian Barder)

Biography: b. 20.06.34, Bristol. Sherborne. 2 Lt, 7 Royal Tank Regiment, Hong Kong; St Catharine's College Cambridge (BA Classics; Chair, University Labour Club). '58: m. Jane Maureen Cornwell (2d, 1s). Home Civil Service: Colonial Office, London, '57. Transferred to Diplomatic Service, '65. Served in UK Mission to United Nations, New York; West African Department, FCO; Moscow; Canberra; Canadian National Defence College, Kingston, Ontario; Head of Southern African Department, FCO; Ambassador to Ethiopia, '82-86, and to Poland, '86-88; High Commissioner to Nigeria and Ambassador to Bénin, '88-91; High Commissioner to Australia, '91-94; retired '94. Post-retirement: Chair, Civil Service Selection Boards; Board of Management, Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, Putney; Speech and Debate Committee, English-Speaking Union. Commonwealth Observer Mission, Namibian elections, '94. Overseas Development Administration Know-How Fund Consultant for Diplomatic Training in East and Central Europe, '96. Lay member, Special Immigration Appeals Commission, '98–'04. Editorial Consultant, Dictionary of Diplomacy, '01, '03. Articles and letters, Political Quarterly, Password, London Review of Books, Prospect, The Times, Guardian, etc. KCMG '92. Website and blog,

What made you decide to start blogging?

My grown-up children dragged me kicking and screaming into using a computer in the '80s (remember WordStar?), and I was sending e-mails on CompuServe from Australia not much later, using an enormous external modem. CompuServe offered space for a website, so graduating to blogging was a natural progression. I enjoy campaigning on various issues, for which a blog is useful.

What is your best blogging experience?

Discovering that some university lecturers in international relations or diplomacy were, and I hope still are, using my blog as a teaching aid.

And your worst?

Nothing serious so far, touch wood.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Probably my first post calling for a full federal system for the
UK (, followed by several later pieces elaborating on the idea and answering some of the objections. But runners-up would be many posts on Kosovo, abortion, the government's assaults on our civil liberties, the wickedness of the system of indeterminate prison, and the penalties paid by society for the cult of the whistle-blower, to name but seven or eight hundred.

Favourite blogs?,,,,

http://www.charlescrawford.bizcharlescrawford/,,,,, and all the others on my blogroll, plus a few hundred others.

What inspired you to go into politics?

I have never been in politics, and never wanted to be in them (it?).

As an opponent of PR. Do you have any fears that we may be introduced to it via the back-door?

I'm certainly worried by the possibility that if there's a hung parliament after some future election, either of the main parties might succumb to the temptation of a bargain with the LibDems involving PR in exchange for LibDem support – which would take us into permanent post-election horse-trading and actual or virtual coalitions, which would be fatal for stability and the chances of a coherent, long-term programme of reform. But I don't see this happening any time soon.

Having been in the Diplomatic Service, which country saw your favourite posting?

Ethiopia (during the '80s famine) for job satisfaction, having the chance to play a part in the huge international famine relief effort; the Soviet Union for political interest; the US (New York) and Australia for creature comforts and culture... virtually every posting had something going for it.

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

New Orleans, San Diego, the Maldives, Trabzon, Prague, Acapulco, Vladivostok, Havana.

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

Ethiopia (where I hope to return briefly next Christmas), and just about every one of Australia's states and cities. San Francisco. Key West. Barcelona and Sitges. The Arctic. Papua New Guinea. Srinagar, Lake Nagin, Yusmarg (Kashmir). Shanghai. Odessa and Yalta. Split. Blenheim (New Zealand). Vancouver. (I could go on and on!)

Who, excluding the present leader and Prime Minister, do you regard as the best British Prime Minister, and if different, the best Labour leader?

If you mean the best prime minister we actually had, Attlee (quite closely followed by Lloyd George and Harold Wilson). If you mean the best prime minister we never had, Nye Bevan and Neil Kinnock first equal (both from Tredegar!), followed at some distance by Iain Macleod and Denis Healey. I don't include Churchill who was a great wartime leader but a flop as peace-time prime minister.

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration

Bevan, probably.

Favourite Bond movie?

Russia with Love ('63 version)

Favorite Doctor Who?

Never watched it.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?


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

The Berlin Philharmonic (Berliner Philharmoniker)

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


Favourite national newspaper?

The Guardian, alas.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Blogging and e-mailing, slow urban cycling, listening to classical music, writing to the newspapers, arguing.

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

Songs: Any of the Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss; Willow Weep for Me (Billie Holiday); any of the five Rückert-Lieder of Mahler. Runners-up in case any of those are disallowed: any of Elgar's Sea Pictures, sung by Janet Baker; Every time we say goodbye, sung by Ella Fitzgerald.

Books: Any of the volumes of Dance to the Music of Time (Anthony Powell); Anatomy of Melancholy (Robert Burton); Prose of Sir Thomas Browne. If any of those are disallowed: British Political Facts; The Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations; Collected Poems of W H Auden, Yeats, Milton, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes.

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