Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXXIX: Graham Whitham

(Graham Whitham)
Graham Whitham runs the Greater Manchester Fabian Society (GMFS) which involves moderating the society’s blog:

Graham was born and raised in Wigan and has studied at both Liverpool and Manchester universities. After brief spells in Coventry and London, Graham returned to the North West and now lives in Manchester. GMFS is run voluntarily and aims to put on events for local Fabians, Labour Party members and anyone else on the left and centre left who might be interested!

In the real world Graham works for a major NGO in Manchester as a Policy Advisor. Previously he carried out policy and research work in the private sector, working on public sector contracts. Graham has also worked as a Parliamentary Researcher to a Labour MP.

What made you decide to start blogging?

I wanted to develop a way of advertising our events and encouraging interaction amongst people interested in politics and policy in Greater Manchester and the wider North West.

Therefore, the GMFS blog serves a slightly different purpose to other blogs in that we use it to advertise our events as much as present opinion pieces. The great thing about a blog is that it is cheaper and easier to maintain, update and make interactive than a website.

What is your best blogging experience?

One of the most enjoyable things has been encouraging people to write guest articles for our blog. We’ve been able to get MPs, academics and Labour party activists to write for the blog. We don’t take a narrow view on who can write and what they can write about so we’ve had some quite interesting and well developed articles on a wide range of subjects.
For me personally, the best experience was going over to Liverpool to interview Joe Anderson, leader of the Labour group on Liverpool City Council last year ahead of the local elections:

And your worst?

Keeping the site updated is the hardest thing, especially given work and other pressures. But I’m working on this and I’ve increasingly got other people involved in updating the site.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Rather than my own posts some of the guest articles we’ve had have been really enjoyable. In particular I liked ‘Rise like Lions’ written by Louise Selisny back in February:

Favourite blogs?

The right does seem to dominate the ‘blogosphere’ so I do often find myself on ConsevativeHome and Iain Dale’s site. However the left is starting to catch up. The national Fabian Society blog – Next Left ( is a good one and LabourList ( increasingly important.
But my favourite blog has to be Grimmer up North - Susan Press has a constructive and proactive way of articulating the hopes and despair of Labour Party activists.

What inspired you to go into politics?

I’ve always been fascinated by politics, I can remember drawing pictures of the main party leaders during the 1987 general election campaign….I was only 6 ! Besides that general interest in politics I am driven by the idea that people should be much more heavily involved in making and understanding policy.

What would you say are the current main aims of the Manchester Fabians?

We want to encourage political and policy discussion amongst people on the left and centre left in Greater Manchester beyond the sort of engagement you get with mainstream party activism. People seem to want to engage in policy discussion and to hear informed opinions and that doesn’t seem to be catered for outside London. So that is what we try to offer in our own small way!

There is recent talk of new ways and means of doing Labour Politics. You blogged on this yourself recently, quoting John Healey. How would you like to see this happen in terms of everyday politics?

There are two strands to this. Firstly I think for the Labour Party it is about engaging people in genuine policy discussion. Secondly all political parties need to move towards a ‘supporters network’ approach rather than engage solely with a hardcore of party members/activists. Open primaries for council and parliamentary seat candidate selection might be one practical way of doing this.

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

Too many places to mention!

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

I’ve been to Australia and wouldn’t say now to going again, particularly Sydney which seemed almost the perfect city! I’ve only been to the west of the United States so could really do with taking in places like Washington DC and Boston.

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

Clement Attlee, without doubt. He did a lot in a relatively short space of time and much of what he did has been maintained and sustained. If you could take Blair’s first term in isolation then you might actually say he was a great PM, but his legacy will always be saddled with the Iraq War, tuition fees and a failure to truly halt/reverse Thatcherism. Electorally Blair is clearly the best leader the Party has had, as opposed to the best PM.

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

I’m a bit of a history buff so I tend to draw inspiration from historical figures as opposed to contemporary politicians but Robin Cook is someone from recent times that many in the Labour Party can rightly cite as an inspiration.

Favourite Bond movie?

The World is Not Enough and not just because Denise Richards is in it !

Favorite Doctor Who?

Has to be Manchester’s very own Christopher Eccleston, ok Salford’s.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?


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

Easy – The Smiths

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

Hmmm…Cambridge is nice this time of year.

Favourite national newspaper?

The Guardian

What would you say your hobbies were?

Music, sport and politics.

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

Favourite songs: This changes on a daily basis but I would say History by the Verve, Still Ill by The Smiths and Made of Stone by the Stone Roses

Favourite books: Far to difficult to think of a top three. My girlfriend bought me Dinner with Mugabe by Heidi Holland earlier in the year and I found that extremely well written and interesting – certainly the best book I’ve read so far this year. Some of those English sci-fi classics like Day of the Triffids, War of the Worlds are excellent so they might make it onto a top three list. I’d like to include an Orwell book, but although his stuff is brilliant it doesn’t exactly fall into the category of an ‘enjoyable read’. The Vote by the late Paul Foot is brilliant but like Orwell, not an easy read.


Alex Smith said...

Great choice of music and even better choice of blogs!

stephy said...

Interesting! I'm interested in how God and politics converge. Thanks for writing about your thoughts.