Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXVII: Alex Smith
Alex Smith was born in Camden in 1982. After leaving Nottingham University he worked at schools, pubs and record shops in North London before realising he could never do those things as successfully as Nick Hornby had already done them, so he spent 15 months living in the US and obsessing over the Obama campaign. He is now the editor of LabourList
I remember receiving an email from a mate about a year ago as we were figuring out how to combine canvassing on the Obama campaign with a trip across the States. Our plan was "get a car, draw the Circle of Hope on it, try and explain to people why it's important from an international perspective to have a Democrat in the White House, make a video diary, become internet sensations". It didn't really work out that way but we were able to say we did our bit.
What is your best blogging experience?
I went to see Gordon Brown and Kevin Rudd talk about the need for progressive solutions to the economic crisis at St Paul's Cathedral the day before the G20. That was pretty imposing.
And your worst?
Going out to buy the papers on Easter Sunday.
What do you regard as your best blog entry?
On LabourList it wasEmma Burnell's Why the Party isn't over. To start with the words "I'm not remotely ashamed of the British left", address the Damian McBride affair and the failings of Labour as she saw them and then say "but I will continue to work within the Party I love" was incredibly brave and inspiring of Emma, and very valuable for LabourList in that week.
There are a lot of great bloggers out there - I like a mixture of Laurie Penny for her passion, Sadie Smith for her irreverace, Next Left for its intelligence and Liberal Conspiracy for its diversity. But ConservativeHome is absolutely the best blog in Britain in my opinion. It breaks stories, is a constant shaper of Tory politics and its analysis is deep and sincere. That has to be the model for LabourList. I also find myself strangely addicited to ToryBear's gloss, but really can't explain why.
What inspired you to go into politics?
I think it was my first day at University when someone asked me which school I went to before asking anything else. I realised then that aspiration in this country is ghettoised and that success is determined on where you're from, who your parents are and the school you went to, above anything else. There and then I was appalled - it struck me as totally unjust.
Having recently taken over as Editor of Labour List, what are your plans for its growth and development?
I think LabourList can become a natural hub for policy ideas and for the Labour grassroots to help shape the manifesto, and also a place to showcase the breadth of talent in the progressive blogosphere. To do that, we need to listen and become trusted on a human front and improve the content and nagivability on the technical side. We're going to make older content more accesible through proper archiving as well as trying to innovate and keep up to date with online advances.
In what areas can Labour bloggers show a positive edge online and do you have any examples of where this may have happened already?
The PMQs and Budget live webchat was a good experiment, and something we should do regularly. Then there are unlimited opportunities with video and podcasts. In terms of a positive edge, go through the titles of LabourList's posts: it's been almost exclusively about policy for a long time, and that's how it should stay.
Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?
Tanzania is absolutely top of my list. I know people who have seen cubs and kills in the same hour in the Ngorongoro National Park, and that's just ridiculous.
Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?
I think I'll always gravitate back to New York. Apart from that, I'm more interested in places I haven't been yet.
Who, excluding the present leader and Prime Minister, do you regard as the best British Prime Minister, and if different, the best Labour leader?
Clem Atlee for the NHS, and Tony Blair for the Minimum Wage and peace in Northern Ireland.
Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?
Bobby and Barack. The two are inseparable in my mind.
Favourite Bond movie?
I've never sat through a Bond film in my life except for the one I slept through and which I can't remember the name of. A man rolls down the Millennium Dome with a gun. Goldfinger?
Favorite Doctor Who?
Never seen it. Although my 9 year old cousin likes it, so it's probably amazing.
Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?
Chocolate buttons, yes; chocolate milkshake, no way / Vanilla ice cream, yes; Vanilla Ice, no way / Mint chocolate, yes; mint tea, no way.
Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?
Earlier this year I read that the Stone Roses were about to reform for a summer of 21 big gigs. I nearly spat out my drink with excitement. I've been waiting for that to happen for nearly 15 years. It didn't happen. But I loved John Squire's denial where he painted "we shall never desecrate the grave of the greatest Manchester pop group of all time by reforming" on a big canvas.
In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?
How about Liverpool?
Favourite national newspaper?
New Statesman - it's not a newspaper, but it's brilliant. The Guardian, the Telegraph and the FT are probably the best daily combination for news and insight.
What would you say your hobbies were?
A year ago I'd've said music, football and people, probably in that order. But now there's a website to try and make work.
And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books
(Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?
Mykonos, Fleet Foxes Adagio for Strings, Samuel Barber Violet Hill, Coldplay
(at the moment - ask me again tomorrow and I'll give you three totally different answers)
The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway: "If I were him I would put in everything now and go until something broke". Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer: "I hope you never think about anything as much as I think about you".
Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot "We shall never cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time".
(I'd've said Hamlet but you banned Shakespeare.)