Interviews

Spare a thought for philosophy: An interview with A.C. Grayling

“As Bertrand Russell said, ‘Most people would rather die than think; most people do’,” quips A.C. Grayling, leaning forward as though offering me a truffle of wisdom for my delectation.  Philosophy is a rather strange business in the modern world of consumerism and commerce, I suppose.  We’re so used to being force-fed ideas these days that we rarely, if ever, dare to stop and think for ourselves.  And that’s where Grayling bucks the trend. Author of over twenty books including a secular bible (‘The Good Book’) as well as countless newspaper and magazine columns, Grayling has been a paradigm of humanism for many years: Vice President of the British Humanist Association, patron of Dignity in Dying, Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society… the list goes on.  And yet, had I anticipated some sort of stuffy Socratic dialogue with a kooky academic or a living, breathing replica of Rodin’s Thinker …

An interview with David Miliband

“If you ask that, you’re dead”. Perhaps asking Philip Mudd, a senior CIA and FBI operative, what question he most feared was a naïve error of judgment. But I certainly didn’t expect a death threat. Fortunately for me, David Miliband’s congenial persona swept away the atmosphere of a Guantanamo interrogation room. His history is impressive to say the least: the youngest Foreign Secretary for 30 years; Environment Secretary; winner of the most number of votes of Labour MPs and Labour Party members, but not of Trade Unionists, in the 2010 Labour leadership election… the list goes on. And just when I’m on the point of questioning whether I have the requisite acumen to interview a political colossus, he steps into the room, the last of the evening sunlight spotlighting his face. In the flesh, he’s an imposing presence, confident in stature, a streak of white hair bristling on a bed …

An interview with Johann Hari

“If Jesus comes back, we’ll kill him again”. Johann Hari, award-winning columnist for The Independent, is telling me about a slogan on a t-shirt that got him into a little trouble in a library. He speaks with a kind of schoolboy exhilaration, a mischievous grin on his face and a glint in his eye. Very few people would sport such a provocative item of clothing in a public place, but I soon realise that Hari isn’t one to shy away from controversy. His articles are invariably outspoken and fearless; he has been the subject of numerous death threats from Islamic fundamentalists, had his effigy burned on the streets of India, and been called fat by the Dalai Lama. Yet despite this reputation, he immediately strikes me as a humane and congenial man. As we meet under the red-and-white awning of a Hampstead café, I am greeted by an outstretched arm …