Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part XIX: Paul Linford
As Paul states on his blog, he is an ex Parliamentary Lobby Journalist who now works in digital media management. He left Westminster in 2004 for "a better quality of village life", and now lives in Derbyshire with his wife and son.
What made you decide to start blogging?
The fact that the technology became available! I think blogging is a medium that suits me, in the sense that I’m a bit of an opinionated git and also that I’m not afraid to share aspects of my private self, so once it became technologically possible it was probably inevitable I would take it up.
What is your best blogging experience?
Being named in Iain Dale’s Top 10 Political Blogs. My traffic doesn’t come close to justifying such an accolade so it must have been down to the quality of the writing/analysis. Unlike many at the top of their professions, Iain is very generous to bloggers less successful than himself. He’s a top man.
And your worst?
Undoubtedly the worst thing about blogging is getting abusive personal comments from anonymous posters, or anonymongs as they are commonly known. I don’t mind people having a pop at me, but to do so anonymously, and in a way that plays the man rather than the ball, is just plain cowardly.
What do you regard as your best blog entry?
Any that get linked to by Iain Dale as it invariably doubles my stats overnight!
There are so many good blogs around it’s hard to single them out. Iain Dale is still up there, Dizzy Thinks has a growing reputation for breaking stories, The Daily regularly has good inside stuff on Labour, and Tim Ireland’s Bloggerheads is quite frequently a work of genius. But the two blogs really setting the agenda on the two big stories of the moment are Political Betting.com on the Labour leadership and Guido Fawkes on cash for peerages.
What do you feel you learnt the most about the political process through being a lobby correspondent?
Basically, I had a ringside seat at some of the great political dramas of our time. Two weeks after joining the Lobby for the South Wales Echo in 1995, the Welsh Secretary John Redwood resigned to challenge John Major for the Tory leadership. Later on, when I moved to the Newcastle Journal, we had a Labour Cabinet stuffed full of North-East MPs. It gave me a way in to major national stories like the resignations of Mandelson and Byers and it is fair to say I took full advantage of that.
Over time, I did become very disillusioned at the degree of news management exercised by New Labour, and how frankly peripheral the regional papers were to all that. The name of the game was to set the news agenda for the day, and key to that was to get a story in the nationals which would then be followed up by the Today Programme. That did piss me off a lot, because the regional press had given Labour a much fairer hearing in opposition when the national press by and large regarded them as unelectable. And they basically sold us right down the river.
All said and done, though, I loved being Political Editor of The Journal, it was the best job in regional journalism in my view. I agonised for about a year over whether to give it up, but in the end it was simply no longer compatible with the kind of family life I wanted to lead.
Is village life better, worse, or the same than you expected?
I don’t have any regrets at all about leaving London, or the Lobby. I first moved to Belper in the late 1980s and kept my house on here all the time I was in Westminster. I always wanted to come back here to live and knew deep down that one day I would, irrespective of what happened in my career.
How do you define your political neutrality and do you find it tough i.e. a temptation to consistently attach yourself to a political party?
While it is true that I don’t attach myself to a particular political party, I wouldn’t claim to be politically neutral. I make no bones about being on the “progressive” wing of politics and an Paul Linford is an unashamedly left-of-centre blog.
It’s unlikely I will ever consistently attach myself to a party, for the simple reason that there isn’t one that comes close to encompassing my views. If there was a political party that was both economically progressive and socially conservative, as I am, I would probably join it, but there isn’t, and as far as I can see there isn’t ever likely to be.
That said, I do attach myself from time to time to political personalities I admire, such as Gordon Brown. I genuinely hope he does become Prime Minister, because I think he is a good man with a strong commitment to social justice. It doesn’t mean I am about to go and join the Labour Party though.
Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?
The Grand Canyon. But travelling isn’t a particular obsession of mine. Whenever my wife and I discuss holiday plans, I always want to go back to the Lake District again!
Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?
New Zealand. My wife Gill and I made the mistake of going there for two and a half weeks in 2003 when we really should have bitten the bullet, jacked in our jobs and gone for six months. One day I hope we’ll go back there and do it properly.
Do you have a favourite political figure in history?
My political heroes growing up were Denis Healey and Tony Crosland. It is a tragedy
that neither of them ever got to be Labour leader. The recent history of the left in this country might have been very different if they had.
Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?
In journalism, Harold Evans, editor of the Sunday Times in its glory years from 1967-81. Reading it as an idealistic teenager showed me just what a huge force for good journalism could be, and part of me still thinks that.
In life generally, my grandad George Cox, who died when I was 12. He worked as a civil servant in the Treasury and was offered the OBE when he retired but turned it down, saying people shouldn’t get gongs just for doing their jobs.
In my Christian life, the evangelist David Watson. I never heard him preach but his books underpinned my faith in its early years.
Favourite Bond movie?
Die Another Day, I think, but more because Toby Stephens makes such a great villain than because Pierce Brosnan was a great Bond.
Favourite Doctor Who?
I thought Christopher Eccleston did a great job, but I’ll show my age and say Jon Pertwee.
Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?
Chocolate, especially Green & Black’s Organic.
Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?
Like quite a few sad old gits who grew up in the 70s, I would love to see the classic Genesis line-up of Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford back on stage together. There are persistent rumours that it will happen, but they never seem to come to anything.
In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?
Well, on the off-chance that it might contain a decent real ale pub that isn’t full of students, I’m tempted to say Barsby.
Favourite national newspaper?
The Guardian, because it is the only one with a genuinely progressive worldview. But its republicanism, political correctness and naked hostility towards biblical Christianity regularly drives me to despair. I have the same problem with newspapers as I do with political parties – there is no newspaper that is both economically progressive and socially conservative.
What would you say your hobbies were?
Cookery, gardening, DIY and fellwalking. I am at my happiest either when putting together a four-course meal for close friends, or when out walking in the hills. Part of the reason I left London was to do more of that.
And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?
101 Eastbound – Fourplay. Whenever I hear this, all seems right with the world.
Blood on the Rooftops – Genesis. Easily the best thing they ever did.
Thieves Like Us – New Order. Immense.
Watership Down, by Richard Adams. I still re-read this every five years or so.
A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, Vol 4 - the Southern Fells, by A. Wainwright. This has given me so much pleasure down the years.
The Art of Captaincy, by Mike Brearley. Quite simply the best sports book ever.