Off to Oxford today to 'deliver a paper' at a seminar organised by the ESRC, and various universities, on the subject of well-being and social justice. I must admit to feeling slightly intimidated by appearing on an academic stage, having had a short - and unsuccessful – university career in the early 1990s. I was reminded of this yesterday when I received a letter from my old friend, David Blunkett.
My first academic job was as a researcher for a Joseph Rowntree Foundation project, the steering group for which was chaired by David. I remember him asking me at my interview what I did on Friday afternoons, a question which completely flummoxed me (apparently the correct answer was 'working hard' as David had concluded from his time as Leader of Sheffield Council that office workers clocked off at Friday lunchtime). Anyway, I have now been on the receiving end of his brusque style again - he wrote to tell me that, following a recent interview I gave on the 'Westminster Hour', while he agreed with a lot of what I said - some of it was 'utter crap'! When I worked for the Labour Party, I had a whole file of letters from David - indeed receiving them was some sort of status symbol. But there was no question as to which was my favourite. It read simply:
Dear Matthew, thank you for your invitation to attend autocue training for this year's Party Conference. I fear there is not much point in my attendance. Yours, hoping for a miracle, David'.