Carl Gardner studied languages before converting to law and becoming a barrister. He worked in government for 12 years as a legal adviser for a number of departments including the Attorney General's Office and the Cabinet Office. He's now a freelance writer, lecturer and consultant, and is writing a book about the British constitution. Carl blogs at Head of Legal.
Why do you blog? > There's been a writer inside me for years, but until blogging it was difficult to find any outlet. Blogging was the answer. I blog about law because I have a passion for it and not enough is written about it in a popularizing, explanatory way.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > The main thing is to keep getting in front of the keyboard and writing. Don't write pure abuse and insult. The web needs light, not heat.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Like many lawyers who like words, I have a soft spot for Lord Denning. If you look only at the late part of his life, he just seems a standard reactionary old buffer, but some of the judgements he gave in his prime were brilliant.
What are you reading at the moment? > I'm trying to finish Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. It's a slow, absorbing read, and needs constant application. It's good, but I wouldn't have given it a prize, myself. This year I preferred Martin Amis's Pregnant Widow.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > It's a clichéd choice for a lawyer, but Bleak House blew me away. Dickens handles the strands of the story so assuredly, intertwining first and third person narration in a way we think is modern but which he mastered a century and a half ago. It's funny, it's exciting, it's emotionally involving - it really is brilliancy in fiction. Can I mention William Boyd's The New Confessions too?
What is your favourite poem? > Wordsworth's sonnets are terrific, not just the one composed on Westminster Bridge but others like 'Scorn not the sonnet, critic' and 'Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour'. And I'm a fan of Philip Larkin. The more I read his last great poem 'Aubade', the more I admire it.
What is your favourite movie? > Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451. It's visually beautiful, the casting of Julie Christie in two parts is a mad stroke of genius and Bernard Herrmann's score is one of his best. The spoken opening credits alone make my spirits rise.
What is your favourite song? > Can I have a disfavourite? John Lennon's 'Imagine' is a turgid, saccharine hymn based on totalitarian fantasy. If you openly dream of abolishing countries, religion and possession, I think you may subconsciously want to abolish people.
Who is your favourite composer? > Brahms, because I think his four symphonies are the best I've heard, as well as being (as someone once said to me) 'pure sex'.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I was once a signatory to Charter 88, in favour of PR and a written constitution. I'm now dead against PR which I think is less democratic than our current system, and the more I've studied, written about and taught the British constitution, the more I've become convinced that adopting a written one would be a blunder.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Popper's idea of the open society. There'll always be social problems, but they're worse and more enduring in those places where power is monopolized and truth can't be spoken.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > The sort of relativism and radical scepticism that seems to underlie literary and cultural 'theory'. I really detest thought without principle that masquerades as socially progressive.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Fowler's Modern English Usage. Reading Fowler (the original 1926 edition) changed me from someone interested in language in a disinterested way into someone passionately committed to using it well.
Who are your political heroes? > Tony Blair was I think the best leader Britain's had in my lifetime. He was right on many things - including Iraq. The current fashionable loathing of Blair is contemptible.
What would you do with the UN? > I'd make India, Germany and Japan, South Africa, Canada and Brazil permanent members of the security council, and I'd only allow vetoes if exercised by two countries. But I'd also like to see the world's democracies create an organization that has the moral authority and consistency the UN lacks – and therefore greater power.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Powerful and undemocratic states like Iran, and elites within even more powerful and undemocratic or semi-democratic states like China and Russia.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I think the best is yet to come by far: longer life, better health, greater education, greater equality, reduced suffering and the practical abolition of war. It depends on democracy spreading.
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? > Absolutely! I can't understand anyone who'd answer 'no' to this. Argument and debate are much sexier than constant agreement.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > I think any form of religious worship is, objectively speaking, a waste of time.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Money.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > David Morrissey, I'd like to think. Although apparently he 'despises' Tony Blair.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > I love Berlin, and will run off there if I ever feel fed up of England. The main thing I'd miss would be English beer.
What would your ideal holiday be? > I'll have a week in Berlin.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > I'm a hospital radio presenter with Radio Northwick Park, and have a show on Monday nights. Otherwise, reading, watching films and drinking in pubs.
What is your most treasured possession? > Perhaps my briefcase, from the East German people's leather factory. Or my navy-striped vintage suit. Or the wig I studied for years to get, but never wear.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to compose music.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > I quite fancy running a pub with a bookshop in it.
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > Soccer is a greedy racket, shamelessly milking its audience, and whose excess makes money seem dirty. In rugby league I support Warrington, and in cricket I'm for Lancashire.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd write full time.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Why's it always dinner? I'd go to the pub with Dr Johnson, George Orwell and Harold Wilson. We'd stand outside so Orwell and Wilson could smoke.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]