Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CLIV: Rob Carr

 Rob was born and raised in Newcastle upon Tyne and now lives in London.  Until last year, he  worked in the public sector. He now works in Westminster as Communications Manager for the Christian Socialist Movement , and as a political aide to a Labour Peer in the House of Lords.
Having grown up in a family of shipyard workers, trade unionists and Labour Party activists in the Northeast, he is himself a committed political activist campaigning for his trade union (Unite), the Cooperative Party and the Labour Party.
As well as being politically active, he is a Christian. For his sins, he supports Newcastle United. At night, he goes to the gym (sometimes) and out with friends (more often) to have discussions about football, politics and the poor quality of the ale among other things. He likes to have adventures. He doesn’t know how he finds the time either.

What made you decide to start blogging?

 I had kept a paper journal since my teens and had toyed with sites like Geocities  many moons ago. By 2009, I was writing long ranty 'messages' to my facebook wall, so I started a blog on Blogger as a natural progression to that and very quickly migrated to Wordpress. A couple of design changes and the purchase of my own URL later, and here I am 3 years older and wiser.

What is your best blogging experience?

I have to say my best blogging experience is probably an offline one. Through people reading my posts and me commenting on theirs, I've met some really wonderful people who I now count as friends. People like Hopi Sen (hopisen.com), Grace Fletcher-Hackwood at LabourList, and Sadie Smith who now blogs for Total Politics, amongst others. While my blog is yet to bring me the Pulitzer or Nobel prize for prose, it has helped build new relationships with great people.

And your worst?

The worst thing about blogging is the sense of disappointment I get seeing all the unfinished draft posts that I never got around to publishing. Political blogging, at least the type I've been doing, is a very fast moving area sometimes. A news story may break in an afternoon when I'm busy with my day job, I might catch up with it in the evening, write a draft, and go to bed. By the time I've come back to the draft the news as developed and my post never gets beyond the confines of my drafts folder. Once a month or so, I delete the totally unusable ones and get maudlin about missed opportunities to dazzle the world with my insights!

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

There are a fair few posts where I think I've hit the political nail on the head with a great piece of analysis and thinking. But my favourite post is from Feb 10, 2010. That was the first anniversary of my Dad's death and is my obituary to him. It's easily the piece of writing I'm most proud of. I repost it every Feb 10th and fathers day.

 Favourite blogs?

I have a problem with my RSS reader. I really need to have a cull on the number of blogs I follow. I read LabourList and left foot forward every day, along with Hopi Sen, Alastair Campbell, Richard Murphy, stumbling and mumbling, and Lansbury's Lido.

What made you decide to go into politics?

I grew up in the north east in an extended family of shipyard workers, trade unionists and party activists. Watching the end of industry in Newcastle was pretty profound for me and I always had a really strong sense of the injustice around me. I was always an active person, speaking up for  classmates at school, getting involved in community projects and then party politics. It just seemed a natural way to continue to voice that sense of injustice I see.

 What is the best and the worst thing about working for CSM?

The best thing about working for CSM is seeing the difference I can have. Whether that's the testimony of a Christian who has got involved in activism or an MP who I can see is going on a journey discovering how social justice and Christianity can go hand in hand. A few years ago, I was exploring my calling with a Vicar. I wanted to go be a worker in the mission field, but was concerned that I was feeling pulled toward politics. Imagine how good I felt the day it dawned on me that politics is mission!
The worst thing about my job is probably when I or Andy have some great idea but realise we can't do anything with it, because we just don't have the resource. It can be frustrating seeing ideas not get
off the drawing board. However, I try to take a long vew and file them in a notebook for another day.

 Why are you standing for the NEC and why should Labour activists vote for you?

It's very difficult for someone to get elected to the NEC if they're not on a 'slate'. I felt that, with the changes in communication and prominence of social media, I would have my best chance of standing this year and maintaining independence. I'm a strong believer in keeping the party united and as an independent centrist feel I can easily communicate with all sides of our 'broad church'. I want to stand on the NEC as someone who is capable of airing the views of all members, whether on the right or left of the Party. I would hope that activists would want to vote for a fellow activist who is a believer in growing our activist base rather than just having members who pay a subscription but don't do anything. Elections are fought and won on the doorstep and we must equip members to get out there and campaign in their communities to make a difference.

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

I'd love to explore South America. I have a dream of travelling from Tierra del Fuego, up the western side of the continent through Chile and Peru.

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

 I adore North Africa. I was in Tunisia last year and have been to Morocco and Egypt before. The Arab spring had already change Tunisia when I went but I'd love to see it now it's had a first election, and I think I'd want to pop over the border into Libya, but that might have to wait a while!

Bar the present one, who is your favourite Prime Minister, and if different, your favourite Labour leader? 

Well, the present PM is never going to be my favourite! I have a soft spot for Harold Wilson. He had a brilliant touch for reaching out to voters, being seen by the electorate as 'one of us' long before Mandelson and Campbell had even thought about spin. He also had a talent for managing the party through some politically divisive issues and keeping it united.

Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?

I think this is the hardest question in this interview. I'd love to be able to name one person. A Mandela or Gandhi. A Churchill or Brunel. But I think the people who inspire me more are people I meet on a day-to-day basis who've overcome whatever life has thrown at them and succeeded. My brother, Paul, is a great example. Since infancy, he's been blind and paralysed down one side and yet today he works as a gardener. I struggle to get my head around that some days, but it never fails to inspire me.

Favourite Bond movie?

I'd have to go with one of the Connery films. Probably Thunderball. Though Craig is my favourite Bond.

Favorite Doctor Who?

As I'm from Tyneside, I was delighted to learn that all planets have a north, even Gallifrey. So my favourite Doctor is the ninth, Christopher Eccleston. I liked his mix of mischief, cheekiness, and dark sadness.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Can't I have all 3? I guess I'd have to go with mint. I can't have vanilla with lamb!

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

 When I was little, I fell over and hurt my leg one night. My dad took me to casualty at the main hospital in Newcastle, the RVI. It's just along the road from St James' Park, home of Newcastle United. That night Queen were playing. My dad and I sat in the car with the windows down listening. Sadly, I never got to see them from inside the stadium and would love to have.

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

People who know me tend to know I'm a big fan of architecture. Not enough people spend their time looking up as they walk through their cities. There's some magnificent sites to see. And Oxford has more than its share of them. I adore walking through the colleges and churches there.

Favourite national newspaper?

I think if I had to choose one it'd be the guardian. But I rarely buy it, I tend to read the top stories of guardian, independent and times online.

What would you say your hobbies were?

 I play guitar and drums poorly, but it's cathartic. I am also quite a decent artist but don't have space for supplies. I've taken up jogging since December, but that's more chore than hobby!

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

I've often played desert island discs in my head so this should be an easy one. Paint it black by the rolling stones, lady winter by Lindisfarne, and battle of the bean field by the levellers are my favourite songs du jour. I reserve the right to name totally different ones in a week though! As for books, Dumas' The count of monte cristo is one I've read over and over since I was young. The Odyssey by Homer is another perennial favourite. And an utterly impartial history of Britain by John O'Farrell is a great recent read that I thoroughly recommend.

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