Stephen Pollard is a political columnist who writes regularly in the Times, Sunday Telegraph and Independent. He has been described by the Sunday Times as a New Labour 'guru', and by the New Statesman as the leading 'British neoconservative'. He is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for the New Europe, a Brussels-based think tank, where he directs the health policy programme, and at Civitas, the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, in London.
Stephen is currently writing the biography of David Blunkett, which will be published in the spring of 2005. From 1998-2000 he was a columnist and Chief Leader Writer on the Daily Express. From 1995-98 he was Head of Research at the Social Market Foundation, and from 1992-95 Research Director at the Fabian Society. Before that he was Research Assistant to Rt Hon Peter Shore MP. He is the author of numerous pamphlets and books on health and education policy, and is co-author with Andrew Adonis (now the Prime Minister's adviser on public sector reform) of the best-selling A Class Act - the Myth of Britain's Classless Society. Stephen lives in London. He blogs at Stephen Pollard.
Why do you blog? > To get off my chest the things no one will pay me to write.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Discovering, and being astonished by, some of the people who read my site.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, Voltaire, and Milton Friedman (with whom, as a rather obnoxious school boy, I had a long correspondence; it says a lot about what a wonderful man he is that he spent a fair amount of time writing to a pipsqueak).
What are you reading at the moment? > My entire life has been, and will be, taken up for sixth months with the writings of, and writings about, David Blunkett.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Woody Allen, Martha Argerich, Benvenuto Cellini, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Whit Stillman. (And Henry Clay Frick and Duncan Phillips for their art collections.)
What is the best novel you've ever read? > I’m going to answer a different question: the best books. Robert Caro's ongoing biography of LBJ. The book which has, I think, had the most influence on me is Alexander Murray's Reason and Society in the Middle Ages. And I adore Benvenuto Cellini's autobiography.
What is your favourite movie? > Metropolitan.
What is your favourite song? > A song-cycle: 'Dichterliebe', by Robert Schumann.
Who is your favourite composer? > I'm going to cheat again: Bach, Handel, Mozart and Beethoven.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > The death penalty, about which I am still in trauma. I do not think of myself as the sort of person who supports it, but I have thought it through and can't come to any other conclusion. And I used to think governments actively should pursue full employment, rather than allowing it to happen by getting out of the way.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That apart from the few areas in which the state does good, it does harm.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That the state is beneficent.
Who are your political heroes? > Joe Chamberlain and Stafford Cripps. I long to write a comparative political biography. And yes, I realize those choices may seem incompatible with the answer to the above question, but the world is now a very different place.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > Nil desperandum carborundum (don't let the bastards grind you down).
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Introduce education vouchers, and have no state involvement in the running of education.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > Jeff Stelling.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Militant Islam.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > I was told this by a senior politician who seemed to have spent his entire career ignoring it: be nice to people on your way up; you'll need them on your way down.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > I tried it once, and the answer is no.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I would lock up any man over the age of about 12 with long hair or a ponytail. I would hang anyone who says 'these ones'. And I hate football fans who only started supporting their team when it became successful.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Computer games. Most pop music. Drinking beer, when there's so much wine to be drunk.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > What's going to win the Champion Hurdle?
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I'd have backed Norton's Coin to win the 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He won at 100/1.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > New York City: the greatest example on the planet of human inventiveness and civilization.
What would your ideal holiday be? > A week's racing at the Punchestown Festival.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Cooking. Eating good food. Drinking good wine. Horse racing. Reading books about American public policy. Writing: I am one of those sickening people who gets paid to pursue their hobby. Watching Spurs - although God knows why.
What is your most treasured possession? > My collection of Joe Chamberlain's letters.
What talent would you most like to have? > I would love to be a good pianist.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Chief conductor of the New York Philharmonic. I'd turn it back into a decent orchestra.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Larry David.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Glenn Hoddle, Tony McCoy, Patrick Depailler (a now deceased racing driver). And two horses: Remainder Man and I'm A Driver.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > To be able to wake up and not give a damn about Spurs. Life would be so much more fun.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Joe Chamberlain, Norman Podhoretz, Clara Schumann.
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