Saturday 17 September 2016

Saturday Interview: Tim Johnston

Tim Johnston is a Labour Party activist from London who, today, launches Heavy Metal Politics, just in time for the party conference season. You can follow his blog on Twitter here and Tim himself @timjohnston_89.

You've made your mind up about the Labour leadership and are backing Jeremy Corbyn. Was this an easy decision to make?

It was. Jeremy has stood by his values his entire political life. He's been consistent. He entered politics for right reasons. He's not a careerist. He's our best hope for real and radical change.

Why do you think Jeremy still attracts a huge following in the party, despite the well publicised criticisms and negative polling?

I think people respect him as a person. The more Jeremy gets abused, the more people see his character, his integrity. Resilience is often unnoticed. It's not anymore. People respect that.

Looking at the two present leadership campaigns, do you think either have made any egregious missteps or played a blinder?

For Owen Smith, it's difficult to point to anything specific. His misstep is one of attitude. He can't control his emotions. He elevates Jeremy to a higher moral standard and demonstrates how low his own is. Accusing Corbyn of anti-semitism, abuse, weakness, doesn't help him. It helps Corbyn.

Corbyn should be more aggressive in defending himself and supporters.

In the unlikely event of Owen Smith winning, what next?

Not going to happen.

And if Jeremy does?

Hate to say it: but a split looks increasingly inevitable.

How did you get involved in politics?

The Iraq War peaked my interest. I then became a politics-junkie.

Are there any blogs or other politics/comments websites you regularly follow?

He's not perfect, but I really like @LabourEoin. He's providing something badly needed in Labour: rigour.

I also subscribe to The Waugh Zone, Paul Waugh's daily newsletter from Huffington Post. A good, quick read to start the day.

If you're ever in the States, watch Morning Joe on MSNBC. It's Centrist but it's brilliant. We need shows like this in UK.

There's a lot of good stuff out there if you look.

Are you reading anything at the moment?

I'm studying for more exams, so unfortunately not! I also have a very bad habit of starting books and never finishing them.

Do you have a favourite novel?

Fortuitously, Harry Potter.

Are there any works of non-fiction that has had a major influence on how you think about the world?

Anything by Slavoj Zizek.

Who are your biggest intellectual influences?

Zizek, Chomsky, Gar Alperovitz, Buckminster Fuller. I'll be controversial and say Walt Disney.

And has there ever been an event/moment that has exercised a similar influence?

I think around 15 I was debating something with my Dad. I realised my argument wasn't very good. I learned to accept defeat. It's important. If we don't do this, we don't grow and we don't know how or when to win. Ability to swallow pride is important.

How many political organisations have you been a member of?


Is there anything you particularly enjoy about political activity?

Discussing issues with open-minded people.

Can you name an idea or an issue you've changed your mind about?

The EU.

What set of ideas do you think it most important to disseminate?

Do they come in sets?

What set of ideas do you think it most important to combat?


Do you have any political heroes?

Dennis Kucinich.

How about political villains?

I would have to say Barack Obama. I could go through a whole list of Thatchers, Bushes, Blairs; but everyone knows them as villains.

Here was a guy who had the world at his feet. He had the power and support to radically change America. First African-American President. On the Left. Arguably the most popular Presidential candidate in history.

He's had limited success. "Obamacare" is a big improvement on the US healthcare system but it's reinforced private health companies. He had the chance to introduce real, universal healthcare; and bottled it.

He's continued aggressive military campaigns and achieved nothing (so far) on Israel/Palestine.

No significant action on gun control. Almost nothing on police brutality and Black Lives Matter. He represents almost nobody.

Looking angry about something during a meeting is not good enough.

People elected Obama to be their hero. Now, people remember him as "being cool."

Jeremy Corbyn is a lot of things. "Cool" isn't one of them. We have to make him "Cool."

What do you think is the most pressing political task of the day?

Too many.

If you could affect a major policy change, what would it be?

A carbon-free economy.

What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world?

Climate change.

What would be your most important piece of advice about life?

Be yourself.

What is your favourite song?

Anything by Dave Matthews Band.

Do you have a favourite video game?


And what was the last film you saw?


What do you consider the most important personal quality in others?


What fault in others do you most dislike?

Lack of consideration/awareness. Taking advantage of others.

And any pet peeves?

Staying in the shower too long. *Loud sneeze*

What piece of advice would you give to your much younger self?

Don't give up. Work hard.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I don't have a lot of that right now! But, when I do, I like to watch football, go for walks with my wife, eat, drink, etc!

What is your most treasured possession?

I consider myself a Feminist; but I'd have to say my wife! Is that allowed?!

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

If I'm being honest then I'd rather not share!

What talent would you most like to have?

I'd like to be able to sing.

If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for?

Corbyn to be PM (and a successful one).

And if you were to suddenly win or inherit an enormous sum of money, would it change you and how would you spend it?

Wouldn't change me. Buy a house. Go on holiday. Get another degree. "Look after" my family. Hopefully give some away!

If you could go for a drink with three people, past or present, who would they be?

Dave Matthews, Jurgen Klopp, and John the Baptist. That shit would be crazy.

And lastly ... Why are you Labour?

It represents the best possible chance (under the current circumstances) to achieve social and environmental justice. A lot of problems, but it's possible ... Hope and hard work is all we need to succeed.