David Grace: I developed an early interest in politics and debating at school, which continued at university where I became President of the Cambridge Union. After university I became a local government lawyer but was much more interested in European politics which led me to my first job in Brussels as Secretary-General of the Young European Federalists, an organisation of 10,000 members in 15 countries.
I returned to the UK in 1980, re-trained and joined ICL to design software and then moved into marketing. However, my interest in politics dominated; I continued to be active in European politics and became very active in the Liberal Party, standing as our candidate in the target seat of Gainsborough & Horncastle in the disappointing election of 1987, where we sadly failed to "break the mould".
Having re-married and started a family, I returned to Brussels in 1990 where I worked as a lobbyist, firstly for a range of private and public sector clients, then for a network of the older industrial regions (Objective 2) and finally for BirdLife International (RSPB in Britain) campaigning on conservation and environment.
I returned to Britain in 1995 to run European Affairs for East Sussex. I now run Inside Europe which is my own consultancy working chiefly with universities and research institutes but also campaigning on climate change.
In 2006-7 I tried to persuade the party to abandon nuclear weapons and not to replace Trident. In 2009 I stood as a Euro-candidate for the South-East Region. I continue to blog occasionally as Disgruntled Radical.
What made you decide to start blogging?
I often reacted to news items by sending an e-mail to lists of friends and I realised that blogging would not only be more efficient but they wouldn’t have to read it if they didn’t want to. As my first ever post said:
In "The Shooting Party" by Isabel Colegate, a small boy asks his grandfather why he is writing in the game book. Grandfather (James Mason in the film) replies, "It's a good idea to write your thoughts down. It saves you from inflicting them on other people". There were no blogs in Edwardian England.”
What is your best blogging experience?
It’s always good when someone you don’t know reads and comments on a post. I once started a chain of remarks about Hegel.
And your worst?
It’s bad when someone you do know pretends to be a made-up person called Barry in order to have a go at you for things you didn’t actually say.
What do you regard as your best blog entry?
I posted an essay on “Why I am still a Liberal” but I had published it earlier, so not really a blog and certainly not as pithy as a haiku.
What inspired you to go into politics?
Largely it was watching other people making a mess of it, rather than a desire to run things myself. At school I helped to set up an elected school council which had to struggle with the headmaster to achieve anything, even buying teapots ! However, we had a debating society and two very good history masters who taught me Santayana’s dictum, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The issue of Trident means a great deal to you, what would you like to see it replaced with?
I don’t think Trident should be replaced and the Liberal Democrat leadership has almost come round to this point of view, saying “No like-for-like replacement”. I don’t believe Britain needs a so-called “independent” nuclear deterrent for all the reasons set out in my blog. However, those who think we do should recognise that Trident is probably the best available. The option of an alternative minimum deterrent makes no sense and would probably contravene the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Any alternative might be cheaper but would not answer all the other arguments against Trident.
Like many Lib Dems, you are enthusiastic about PR. What do you make of AV and do you see it as a possible compromise?
Like many I have supported STV for many years but I have come to see the value of the constituency link which AV would keep. I would certainly accept it as a compromise. Having fought the Euro-elections, I have no enthusiasm for list systems.
Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?
Lots of places: India, Australia, Turkey, Antarctica, Russia, parts of the USA, Canada, Egypt.
Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?
The USA, Italy, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark
Who, excluding the present leader, do you regard as the best Liberal Democrat/Liberal/SDP Party leader, and if different, the best Prime Minister?
It probably has to be Gladstone but Campbell Bannerman deserves an honourable mention if only for his last words, reputed to have been: “This is not the end of me.”
Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?
Can we call John Stuart Mill and Bertrand Russell political figures ? I would add Jean Monnet and Philip Kerr, Lord Lothian, both federalists. They have all inspired me but I have not generally been inspired by politicians. As the King of Brobdingnag says in Gulliver’s Travels: “...whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together”
Favourite Bond movie?
It must be Dr.No with Ursula Andress as Honeychile Rider rising out of the sea with a shell like the birth of Venus.
Favorite Doctor Who?
Tom Baker of course. I used to have a scarf like his but it was stolen at a Liberal Conference.
Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?
All three please and, if possible, ginger.
Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?
Runrig (I have seen them twice); the Inkspots (unlikely now)
In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?
Cambridge. I was educated there, I lived there for a while and I am delighted that at last Cambridge has a Liberal MP and even more delighted that it is David Howarth. When David agrees with me, I can always presume that I have got it right.
Favourite national newspaper?
I hardly ever read the papers these days. The Independent is best for politics but has dumbed down a lot since Andrew Marr edited it. The Guardian has some interesting writers but some awful ones as well. The Telegraph still has the most news.
What would you say your hobbies were?
Buying books and occasionally reading them. Walking (coasts and hills) but not often enough). Philosophy. Pedantry. Singing whenever I can and even dancing sometimes. Killer Sudoku.
And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?
Minnie the Moocher (Blues Brothers)
What a swell party this is (Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra)
Loch Lomond (Runrig version)
Sword of Honour (Cheating as it’s a trilogy) by Evelyn Waugh
Three men in a boat, by Jerome K Jerome
Gödel, Escher, Bach, by Douglas Hofstadter