Monday, May 25, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXXII: Mike Smithson

Mike Smithson is the founder and Moderator of One of the most popular blogs in the UK.

What made you decide to start blogging?

I've always been fascinated by polls, forecasting political outcomes and betting and in late 2003/early 2004 I came to the view that the then front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Howard Dean, was not going to make it. I began discussing this and other political betting issues on Betfair's discussion forums. Politics was classified in their "specials" section and just about the same time someone called Kerry" was favourite to win Pop Idol or something like that. On many evenings pop idol backers would come and disrupt our conversations which, by early 2004, had become about John Kerry. After several days of this I got fed up and became determined to set up my own site where those who shared the same interest could come. I acquired the domain name and PB started in March 2004.

What is your best blogging experience?

Just seeing the dramatic success of the site,- we currently averaging more than 100,000 page down-loads a day, which was epitomised in April 2009 when we reached the million mark in terms of the number of comments.

And your worst?

The worst experiences have been trying to manage our massive comments traffic when one side or another has been on top and has become aggressively obnoxious. I don't lile banning contributors because I like to operate a light tough and maintain the cross-party feel of the site. But about ten people are permanently banned and half a dozen others have the equivalent of "constraining orders" where they get a red card if they go over the line.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

This was the famous call on May 26th 2005 on Barack Obama to win the presidency when he was 50/1 in the betting. In the discussion I wrote "Thinking forward just two and a half years you can see what a hurdle the Iowa caucuses in January 2008 are going to be for Hillary. The nature of this process and the way people get together and discuss the options saw off the favourite, Howard Dean last year and might be the context that is good for a charismatic contender like Barack"

Favourite blogs?

Guido, Iain Dale, ConHome, LabourHome, Paul Linford, LibDem voice, Spectator CoffeeHouse

At this stage, who do you think is likely to be the next Speaker?

I desperately want it to be someone up to the challenge of restoring the power of the Commons against the all-power government machine. The only person capable of doing this is Vince Cable. I've just got a feeling that he might be persuaded. Just think how crazy it was that ordinary MPs were not allowed to have a confidence motion on Michael Martin debated - they would have had to rely on the government machine giving them the time. The system stinks and the next speaker will be crucial in making change.

You recently blogged on Expensesgate contributing to a possible rise in Euroskepticism. What do you think the practical fallout will be?

Not a lot. UKIP doing pretty well on June 4th and their bubble bursting as we get closer to the general election. We are in Europe and we are not going to leave.

How do you rate Brown's chances of political survival within the next six months?

Hopefully he will be ousted soon and Alan Johnson, one of the goodies over expenses, will take over. I don't rate this as much higher than a 35% chance. Labour's choice of Brown is only equalled by the Conservative election of IDS in 2001. Both moves were an affront to the electors.

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

Southern Africa and Cuba.

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

I used to fly to the US every four-five weeks in my previous jobs. I don't do that any more and I miss it enormously. The best city in the world is Chicago.

Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

The pioneers of the reform movement that led to the 1832 act being passed. There were many involved but Lord Grey and Lord John Russell are the ones who got it through parliament. It's not always easy getting turkeys to vote for Christmas. We desperately need someone with their drive and vision to bring in required change today.

Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?

In blogging terms the person I've been most inspired by is Andrew Sullivan.

Favourite Bond movie?

I still remember Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in Dr. No. That moment has never been equalled.

Favourite Doctor Who?

Never watched it.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?


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

The Weavers

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

I spent ten years from 1995 - 2005 working in Cambridge and then Oxford. I love both cities but Cambridge probably has the edge. I've never heard of Barsby.

Favourite national newspaper?

I suppose the Mail stands out although I never buy it. I read all of them on the net.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Blogging, betting, Burnley FC, and before my knee went I loved cycling. Also collecting memorabilia from the Reform Act campaign, good food and enjoying very fine Darjeeling teas.

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

Ewan Maccoll/ - /The Joy of Living/

Sinead O'Connor & The Chieftains/ - /The Foggy Dew/

Oysterband/ – The Road to Santiago/

Stasiland/: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall: Anna Funder:

Winter in Madrid by CJ Sansom

George Orwell - Homage to Catalonia


Plato said...

As a fan of PB this is brilliant.


The Welsh Jacobite said...

Have to disagree about those self-aggrandising Whigs: 1832 was the start of our present troubles.

Bring back Rotten Boroughs!

Plenty said...

Good article. Disagree with him on Johnson though. He might be charismatic but his current electoral reform proposals are just a ploy to prevent the Tories from getting an overall majority at the next election. Labour know that they are on the verge of defeat and want to limit their losses as much as they can.