Well, it seems it takes just one post on a "professional" subject and one can develop quite a taste for it; so before this blog disappears under the looming cloud of graphite nappies, sleeplessness and Tommee Tippee paraphenalia, it seems to me to be important to respond to a quite stunning blog post - Sticks and Stones - by Sarah Baskerville (or @Baskers, on that there twitter).
@Baskers situation, being on the wrong end what seems to me to be some real tosh at the Daily Mail, described here as "vicious pillorying", "bullying" and "abuse" has been well rehearsed. And it's been addressed by better folk than me. So that stuff is for others. That's not why I am blogging about this today.
I'm blogging about this today, because Sarah Baskerville changed things for me, in an important way. At least on-line.
She has been a bit of an inspiration. For years and years and years "pseudograph" has been me but nameless; a place to hide. @pseudograph was so completely anonymous on twitter for a long time that some people I work with - at a distance, but people I see once a week, or once a fortnight - genuinely did not know it was me they were following until recently.
pseudograph has been me for a long, long time. It's been me here since The Origin of the Specious in July 2008; it's been me on a Sunderland message board since July 2007; it's been me on youtube since November 2006... But it's been me on the web since the mid-nineties when I chose the word to hide behind, on newsgroups such as alt.herve.villechaize.dead.dead.dead or alt.2eggs.sausage.beans.tomatoes.2toast.largetea.cheerslove.
I wasn't working in the Public Sector when I first 'graphed up'. It wasn't ever a name to hide my views behind. I was just a bit shy. They don't much care for anyone's politics on alt.herve.villechaize.dead.dead.dead. Actually, I think I may even have been the only poster on there.
If I'm honest I chose the word because I (thought I had) made it up, assuming (wrongly) that it meant 'false name' in the same way autograph doesn't mean 'self name'. Idiot.
Anyway, I stuck with it. That's not to say people didn't know it was me. Many did by 2006 onwards. But they didn't where and when I didn't want them to, and them as did seemed happy to stick with that arrangement. Which is nice.
But then Baskers changed that.
Because what happened to Sarah made me realise that I had a bloody duty to express my opinions as my opinions and to be responsible for them.
The opinions I express here, or in newsgroups, or wherever, are not those of my employers, my managers, my staff, my family, my friends or the editor of the newspaper I buy. They're mine. And I need to be responsible for them. I need not to embarrass any of those people. But I need too not to be pilloried just for having them.
So, as a public servant, I realised I had a duty to be clear who I was. I had a duty because of Baskers, and a duty to Baskers, and a duty to myself to be honest about my views, because I still have them. I hope that it's still having views - of all sorts - that makes me useful. I cannot hope to operate in any work environment without the degree of personal integrity which means I can be authentic in the workplace, and in the work that I do. Anyone who has done any kind of management studies will have read something that says management and leadership and change and staffing and stuff is all about being who you are. It's all about being authentic. Trained and qualified, professional and skilled? Of course. But bringing all of those things to bear with authenticity. The best managers and leaders in any sector, in any field (including politics) have often been those that others trust because they are true to themselves and to others, and because they are prepared to understand others, exercise some humility and learn.
And I do believe in certain things; like public service for a start.
I do believe that people and organisations learn best when they ask questions of themselves, allow thought, allow criticism, allow for challenge.
I do believe that taxation is the price we pay for a civilised society, and I do believe that local authorities should meet the challenges of transparency and accountability and should be judged by how they support the most vulnerable they are responsible for.
And I do believe in so-called "Political Correctness" (or 'common human decency' as it was taught to me by my parents).
And I am open-minded about global warming. I am an atheist.
And I am in favour of the European Union and of the Euro.
I have been an active political person in the past, and I now can't imagine belonging to a political party because they all have some interesting things to say, and some things I think of as wrong, and some degree of tribalism which I cannot any longer abide. And I have met very few politicians I didn't like; and I've met quite a few politicians.
I adopt a monkey because I believe the keeping of monkeys as pets is wrong and should be stopped. And I believe Peter Reid should have bought better when we were 7th in the Premier League the first time around. And I believe Peroni is fantastic. And bad for me.
Oh, hell, I believe all sorts of stuff, and not always for very long. I change my mind.
But I have views. They're mine; they're probably all wrong, and they're allowed.
I think @Baskers is right to fear for the hundreds of thousands of other public sector workers who are now at risk of the same "treatment" by the UK media that she endured. I think @Baskers is right that none of those hundreds of thousands signed away their rights with respect to freedom of thought, speech and expression of opinion (and that includes political opinions as well)". I think that each of those should not engage in overt party political activity where they're not supposed to; and I think attacking your boss(es) is always daft, irrespective of your job or sector. But I think being concerned about change where you work, and criticising constructively is a duty all employees should try to take on. In Japan they made an economy work thinking like that...
And I think that there may be a risk that public servants, relied on - quite properly - to behave in an apolitical, neutral, professional manner, end up inadvertently spinning for a political majority, simply in the act of reassuring, where the truth is much much harder. Because actually what we should be relied on - quite properly - to do is tell the truth. Precisely because we are impartial, we must be allowed to say when we think that politicians of any and all parties have got it wrong.
So I decided I had to be honest about who I am and what I believe, because @baskers nasty episode demanded my solidarity. And I will behave properly. I will continue (I hope) to challenge. I will remain professional and impartial and human in my job. I will remain devotedly a-tribal in my politics, and resolutely progressive in them too.
And I will now stop this ranting with a slight adaptation, for which I hope, if anyone reads this, that I can be forgiven... I am not Spartacus, but #IamBaskers
I hope she doesn't go.