Sam Elliot was born in Halifax and raised in South Manchester. After leaving his state grammar school he studied Classics at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he completed an MPhil degree in 2004. He went on to work briefly in the public affairs and charity sectors before becoming a political adviser to the Labour Party in local government, firstly in Ealing and then London-wide. Sam lives with his wife Sarah in North London and blogs at An Unnecessary Role.
Why do you blog? > I came to blogging very recently as a result of using Twitter for a couple of years and realizing I needed the space to say more than one-liners about Newsnight. I also enjoy writing, and felt it would force/inspire me to do more.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Being linked to by Tyler Cowen and the consequent ego-boost of page views.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Realizing my self-absorption extends to the number of page views having a positive or negative effect on my mood.
What are you reading at the moment? > The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, Hitch 22 by the Hitch, and (a continuing crawl through) War and Peace.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
What is your favourite poem? > Juvenal's third Satire.
What is your favourite movie? > Ever so slightly conventionally, The Shawshank Redemption.
What is your favourite song? > 'Backstreets' by Bruce Springsteen.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > My opinion of Tony Blair. In my youthful naïveté I bought into the bogus left-wing critique of New Labour. It was only after Iraq, and seeing some of the flakes and cranks lining up against, that I began to question those lazy assumptions.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > The importance of local democracy and powerful, well-resourced local democratic structures that act as guarantors of the ability of communities to take decisions to shape their areas and meet their needs and aspirations.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > The idea that unaccountable ad hoc groups and 'community groups' can fill that gap.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Nick Cohen's What's Left? finally swept aside my woolliest thinking about the romance of the left.
Who are your political heroes? > The aforementioned A.C.L. Blair looms largest, but closer to home I yield to no one in my admiration of some of the fantastic Labour council leaders in London, especially this week.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'Man up and say I'm fat'. Honest, self-deprecating, cutting through the closed language of the political world – manna from heaven for the jaded hack.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > A radical devolution of power and resources to local, democratically elected councils, with the intention of changing permanently the way power is exercised in this country.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Irreverence.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > The innate assumption that all cities, towns and villages are inferior in some way to Manchester.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Rugby, the playing and watching of.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Awkward (or even not so awkward) social situations.
What would you call your autobiography? > Self-Regarding Nonsense.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Time to read, fizzy wine, and a good restaurant. If a major cultural centre is nearby, that's a bonus.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Making lists of all the things I would like to do with my spare time.
What is your most treasured possession? > My late grandfather's crucifix.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to speak more than one language.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > I have always coveted the life of writer, although I suspect I covet sitting in coffee shops all day and having books with my name on.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > I love Mike Birbiglia's ability to turn his extraordinarily unfortunate life into comedy.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Since Lance Armstrong, I know better than to have sporting heroes.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > It would allow me to buy a house in the (not absurdly wealthy) area I now live, which says something about the way we've allowed our communities to develop in London – a suitably po-faced way to end this profile.
[A list of all the normblog profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]