Derek Draper: You Ask The Questions

The editor of LabourList.org and psychotherapist answers your questions, such as 'So is Labour doomed?' and 'What therapy would you offer Brown?'
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The Independent Online

What is the single most important thing that Labour stands for? HARRY PHILIPS, Brighouse

Well, I know we hedge around it sometimes, and you can never achieve it completely, but I think equality. That we should run our economy and society so there is as much equality of opportunity and outcome as possible – that last bit being where the debate and difficulties lie, of course.

Why is Harriet Harman so keen to distance herself from Gordon Brown at the moment? KATIE CHATAWAY, Cambridge

I just don’t buy this. Harriet’s a loyal deputy. She has the right to argue for her opinions and in my view, much of what is hurled at her is simply conscious and unconscious sexism.

You founded Labourlist.org. What role do you see it playing in the next general election? JAMIE GOODALL, Aldeburgh

Well, it’ll be a place for Labour-minded people to come together online and discuss politics. We’ll also make sure that we put the Government’s case up so people know what it is, even if they then disagree with it. We also might break the odd anti-Tory story and have some good cartoons and videos but it’s not really a place for winning the votes of the undecided. That can – and should – be done elsewhere using new media but not really on LabourList. We are there to involve, motivate and enthuse the troops.



Hazel Blears has stated that there are some dangerous trends in right-wing blogging. Do you agree? ALEXANDER HAYES, Crewe

I have had torrents of cybershit poured over my head in the last few weeks for asking Tory blogger Iain Dale to apologise for defending Carol Thatcher’s use of the term “golliwog” and for forcing Guido Fawkes to take down disgusting racist comments on his website. But I don’t regret it. The people on some of these blogs post vicious, offensive hateful comments. That is their prerogative. The answer, of course, is for decent people to set up blogs and comment more online so we drown out the nihilists, as Hazel rightly called them. In the meantime progressive people should have nothing to do with them.

You recently squared up to a journalist who wrote something about you that you didn’t like. As a qualified psychotherapist, is your view that this is a sensible way to process anger? JOSIE GLENVILLE, Birmingham

I do actually. That guy impugned my professional integrity, having got some basic facts wrong that he should have checked. His paper has since published a correction. But I was angry, very angry and I think, within reason and on occasion, expressing anger is a good thing to do. It’s actually just as valid an emotion as any of the others. So I don’t regret it at all.

Who has been the single most important influence on you in your adult life? ROGER GARBER, Nottingham

Personally, my wife. Politically, Roy Hattersley (and may I never confuse the two).

Jacqui Smith’s in trouble over a questionable expenses claim. Isn’t this exactly the sort of behaviour voters thought they’d banished when they kicked out the Tories all those years ago? GARY SWANN, Inverness

I think Jacqui followed the rules, it is the rules that are bloody stupid.

As someone who’s undergone it in your own “Lobbygate” affair, what would be your advice to someone trying to survive scandal? LISA RUTTER, Camforth

Well, that’s tricky. Do you pause and reflect on what you’ve done – hard in the eye of a political storm – or come out fighting with all you’ve got to protect yourself from attack? If you’re sure you’re innocent, definitely do the latter.

Admit it. Labour are doomed. Why don’t you support a truly progressive party like the Lib-Dems? MARION FORDHAM, London

We’re not – and because they are unprincipled opportunistic political charlatans who are a bizarre mix of right wing and left wing and no wing.

Who are the least and most capable members of David Cameron’s Conservative Party? STEVEN HIGGINS, London

Capable of what? Some of them are good at opposition politics and some of them are nice guys – Lansley, Gove and Cameron himself. Herbert and Hunt are rising stars. But underneath the warm words and the political positioning who knows what they’d be like? That’s the problem. I suspect the same old Tories we’ve always had.

You said that you had changed after you left politics and went into psychotherapy. Can you feel yourself changing back again? MATTHEW BALEm Waterlooville

Sometimes I fear I can. I don’t want to – I hope I won’t, but I am wary of it. That’s one of the reasons I’m in psychotherapy. My best hope is that I am more self-aware than I was before, so I should be able to catch myself if I do. But there are different facets to our personalities and that I can best express some parts of mine through being a therapist and writing, and other parts through political campaigning.

If Gordon Brown was on your couch, how would you help him? LUCY JACOBS, Reading

I don’t think Gordon Brown needs therapy but my hackneyed but genuine advice would be to be himself. What people want from their leaders, more than ever, is authenticity. So what if you’re a bookish slightly eccentric figure? Let people see the pile of books you’re in the middle of reading, the case stuffed full of papers, the intensity, the political passion. But also let them see how much you’re into The X Factor and football and how you love watching the cartoon Peppa Pig with [sons] John and Fraser. Gordon says he doesn’t want to use his children as props but I think, in a limited way, he should show his private side more. I would also tell him to have the occasional lie-in – you know, to at least 7.30am or so.

As someone who used to work for Peter Mandelson, did it surprise you to see him return to the cabinet? ALLY JENNINGS, Birmingham

I was gobsmacked. I’d had tea with him at Patisserie Valerie a few weeks before and it never entered our heads that Gordon would do what he did. They had been speaking for months and their relationship, which had been awful, had got back to where it used to be when I first worked for Peter pre-1994, and maybe it was in the back of Gordon’s mind but it certainly came as a surprise to Peter. A pleasant one, though. I think he’s loving being back and doing what he does best: fighting tooth and nail for Labour and what we stand for.

You once said that there were 17 people in the Government who counted, and you were intimate with all of them. How many is it now? GINA FAIRRIS, Bolton

When that lobbying scandal broke my old girlfriend sent me a card saying “I hope you weren’t intimate with all of them when you were going out with me”. Ten years later I am still close to quite a few people in the Government but if I say anything more I’ll be bragging again so I’d better shut up. I still, by the way, look back on that time and cringe. Even though it was nothing more than run-of-the-mill lobbying I will always be ashamed of trying to profit from my political work and contacts. It took me a while to realise quite how wrong it was, and I regret that too.

How do you feel about the fact that someone paid £1,650 for a half-eaten banana signed by your wife, the TV presenter Kate Garraway? SARAH MATHER, Liverpool

Well, its pretty odd isn’t it? Though it was for charity! There’s a website called “Garrawench” too, that I went on once but would never go back to. Like any bloke I’m flattered if people fancy my wife but because of her job I guess more guys see her and we get to hear about it more. I console myself with the fact that no-one fancies her more than me.

If you could choose a nickname other than Dolly, what would it be? FLORENCE HARRIS Richmond, Do people call me Dolly? Some people call me Degsy, but that was always associated with Derek Hatton. Other friends call me Delboy, which has connotations of Only Fools And Horses – some would say both are therefore strangely suitable. A few mates call me Dezza, which is my secret favourite.

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