Daily Politico: Claire Fox

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 18 August 2008 in Diary
Claire Fox is director of the Institute of Ideas and convenor of the annual Battle of Ideas festival.

Why did you get involved in the political world?

I decided the world needed changing and I was too vain to watch as a bystander.

When did you join your political party?

I joined the RCP (Revolutionary Communist Party) in the early 80s. I’d be in it still but it was wound up at the end of the nineties. So now I’m party-less, but still optimistic.

What is your earliest political memory?

My most vivid political memory was my Irish mother crying when the UK government introduced internment to Northern Ireland in 1971. She was so shocked that suspects — i.e. innocent people - could be locked up without trial. Of course these days it has become fashionable. There were more tears the following year as we heard that British troops had shot and killed 14 civilians on Bloody Sunday. I remember thinking I would grow up and stop such injustices. I'm still trying.

Which one law would you repeal?

So many to choose from. Can you believe that Gordon Brown has beaten even his predecessor's record, introducing 2,823 new laws during his first year in office, the highest record for law-making by anyone at Number 10? If I only have one law to repeal, it’s tempting to say the smoking ban, which drives me mad with its petty, draconian assault on liberty, but probably more pernicious is the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, which makes vetting compulsory for all adults who work or volunteer with kids and is destroying informal interaction.

Which one law would you introduce?

Maybe it’s about time someone in politics stopped introducing laws. So — none.

What’s your favourite political quotation?

It’s a tossup between Marx’s “Philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it” and the Irish republican slogan Tiochfaidh ár Lá (our day will come).

What music gets you up to dance?

I can’t resist anything by The Specials or I Will Survive.

What’s your favourite form of transport?

I still haven’t got over the excitement of getting on a plane. I love the freedom of being able to travel — often cheaply (thank you Ryanair) — and get to a whole new world in just a few hours. All those anti-flying environmentalists may be happy to stay at home. For the rest of us, taking to the air - one of the great gains of modernity - means liberation from parochialism and the chance to experience new adventures.

What’s your favourite dish?

Fish and chips is pretty high up on my favourites, but my Aunty Kitty’s bacon and cabbage makes my mouth water just thinking of it.

When did you last cry, and why?

Every time an underdog wins an Olympic medal (so I’m crying quite a lot at the moment). Also last week when I heard that my nine year old nephew has been selected to play for his local football team.

What’s the last thing you bought in a shop?

Double reduced bargains in the sales today — I LOVE shopping.

Who’s your favourite comedian?

Dave Allen. The old ones are the best.

Have you ever cried at a film? Which one(s)?

I cry easily at films, but Cabaret usually does it — especially when Liza sings Maybe This Time.

What is your favourite novel?

Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter.

What job would you be doing if you weren’t involved in the political world?

Teaching. I left teaching ten years ago to become publisher of LM (Living Marxism) magazine and still miss it, and feel guilty at abandoning one of the most important jobs in the world.

Where in the world would you most like to go on holiday?

China. Having recently written and spoken so much about the exhilarating growth of the country and getting tantalising glances on TV during the Olympics, I’d like to see it for myself, warts and all, smog or no smog.

When was the last time you used public transport?

Today and every day, with all the challenges that entails. I love treating myself to taxis, but with no expense account, they are a rarity.

Which websites do you visit regularly?

BBC News, spiked, Arts & Letters, Google News, Times Online, Culture Wars, Guardian Media, New York Times.

Which five words would your friends use about you?

Talkative, smart, scatty, ambitious, aspirational.

Which five words would your enemies use about you?

Contrarian, denier, common, loud-mouthed, harridan.

Who is your political hero?

Trotsky, because he had the courage to write The Revolution Betrayed, admitting that everything he had fought for had been compromised and explaining how and why. I owe him an enormous debt as a reader and hope I might be brave enough to be as honest as that in facing political challenges today.

Who is your political hate figure?

Al Gore or any one of today’s self-styled eco-warriors who preach apocalypse and restraint. Gore embodies a particular brand of ‘greener than thou-ism’ that I despise, as he finger-wags at those of us who dare argue people are more important than the planet and development is more crucial than carbon-counting.

What’s your most memorable time in politics?

The miners’ strike. The striking miners on picket lines in the Midlands read the FT, grilled me about international politics, the economy, culture etc and taught me never to underestimate or patronise working class people.

What’s your most embarrassing moment in politics?

When I lost my nerve at a public meeting. Even though I got taken by the chair, I bottled it as I knew the argument I wanted to make would be unpopular. Everyone knew that my silence was cowardice. My opponents sniggered and guffawed. “Never again” I vowed.

What’s your prediction for the next general election?

That it will matter more to the political elite and the Westminster media than it will to the majority of us.

What do you never miss on TV?

Coronation Street (Thank God for ITV2), Mad Men and The Shield (when they are on), Newsnight and Question Time (even though I scream at the TV during both) and of course Andrew Neil’s This Week.

Complete this sentence: The thing I hate about politics is...

... the way politicians hide behind evidence based policy to avoid arguments and debate about ideas and principles.

Complete this sentence: The thing I love about politics is...

... debating issues so as to understand the world better with a view to changing it for the better.

What would you like your political epitaph to be?

She stuck her head above the parapet, made things happen and inspired others to have go too.

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