Blog Two: interview plan, by Tom Whitehead

Blog two: Interview plan

I have arranged to interview Stephen Timms, the MP for East Ham. I chose Mr Timms due to the fact that he has served as the MP for East Ham (formerly Newham) constituency since 1994, and before that served on Newham council for ten years, and as such can give me a great deal of insight into how the borough/area has changed during that period, as well as how the Labour Party has changed.

The first part of the interview will focus on Mr Timms’ early life, more specifically his family, the area in which he grew up, his time at school, and his time at university. I have already done some research into those area, but I wish to fully understand how far his decision to join the Labour Party was influenced by those experiences. I am also planning on asking him about his career in telecommunications, but as I am not entirely sure if this is pertinent to the overall interview I may decide against it.

The second part of the interview will concern his political career, starting with his time on Newham council, and ending with Labour’s defeat in the 2010 General Election. My main concern with this portion of the interview is that it may have to tendency to degenerate into a political rather than a historical interview, so I must ensure my questions do not wander in that direction. The main area I wish to explore is how the shift from Old to New Labour affected his job on a practical level, but also how it affected the party culture in general. By most accounts New Labour was a significant departure from traditional Labour ideology, and so it will be interesting to see whether an insider who was part of those changes agrees. I also wish to ask him about his time on Newham council, specifically the main challenges he faced as a local councillor in Thatcher era Britain, and why he chose to run for Parliament i.e. whether it was a career move, or a personal one.

The second issue I wish to cover in this part of the interview are what effects the demographic changes within the borough have had. Currently, Newham has one of the lowest White British populations of any London borough, and as such I wish to explore how this has changed East Ham in a social and cultural sense and also how this has affected his job, both in a day to day working sense, and in how Labour spreads its message. I also wish to explore how Newham’s economic status affects his work, as the borough has historically had a high unemployment rate.

The final part of the interview will focus on how Mr Timms’ Christian beliefs have influenced him politically. On his website, he describes himself as a Christian Socialist (a movement which I have studied before) and as such I wish to see how his religion influenced him personally, but also if he feels there is a broader ideological connection between Christianity and socialism.

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Blog One Topic Choice by Tom Whitehead

For my oral history interview, I am planning on interviewing an older member of the Labour Party. My interview will focus around two key themes: firstly, their personal background and how they feel that influenced their decision to join the Labour party, if at all; and secondly, how they feel the nature of British socialism and attitudes towards class have changed, and if so the factors which caused those changes. I also plan on asking them questions about Labour’s time in Opposition in the 1980s and the rise of New Labour, but I will formulate those questions when I know who I am interviewing. For me, the main purpose of this interview is to gain a greater understanding of how older members of the Labour party see the relationship between Labour, socialism and class consciousness, as well as exploring how and why the party underwent the transformation to New Labour from an insider’s persective.