As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
How did you get involved in the arts?
I got sucked in gradually! A lot of the songs I was writing were championing justice issues. NGOs were taking me away to see various situations and invariably I would be inspired to write songs about them. On coming home I would then speak or sing, trying to rally people to campaign on various issues. Some of these lobbying events were at Parliament, so I started to get to know some MPs, and realised the importance of Christians being on the inside of politics. When you look at some of the achievements regarding international development in recent years, they have come from a mixture of passionate advocacy externally connecting with some folks doing the even harder grind of making things happen within the political system, be they politicians or civil servants.
Tell us about the role of arts in relation to a political message.
Much of the lobbying of the 21st century will need to be lobbying of the heart as well as lobbying of the mind. Politicians and other decision makers are confronted with surveys and statistics all day every day. The times when I have seen people grab hold of an issue and run with it are times when something or someone has touched them deeply. Music can do this in a way that mere words cannot. The fool at court was always able to say things to the King that no-one else could get away with. This is the role of the minstrel that I feel called to, and I really hope more people start to play it.
Who has been the biggest influence in your work?
Jesus. I know that’s the obvious answer, but no-one else even comes close. His creativity, playfulness, security and calm authority just blow me away. What a role model for trying to turn the world upside down. I wish I was better at following him. My work would feel a lot less like work if I did.
What makes you angry?
Injustice. People using power to manipulate situations. Be that a bully in a school playground, or a powerful nation state influencing trade policies, or people using the threat of their bad moods to get their own way.
If I were Prime Minister for 1 day I would...
Apologise for a lot of what we have done to the developing world.
Put money creation back in the hands of national governments.
Separate retail and speculative banking.
Enforce a currency transaction levy.
Get test cricket back on terrestrial TV.
What Christian story or biblical text motivates you in your work?
Proverbs 31:8-9 (ANIV)
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy."
There are so many niche groups appearing on radio and TV, speaking up for their little corner of Britain. Our glorious distinctive and calling is to speak up for others, not for ourselves. That’s when people start to listen. That’s when we truly start to be prophetic.
What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out in politics?
Don't hover. Pick a horse and get on it. You'll never feel completely at home in any of the parties. We don't agree with our spouses about everything, or our churches, but we still find common cause. Just get stuck in. You will be amazed at how quickly you get wired into policy discussions and given positions of responsibility.
What has been the political highlight of the year for you?
Gordon Brown's speech at St Paul’s just before the G20 summit. Read it. The economy needs morals like a family does.
Tell us one of your most hilarious faux pas...
My dad organised the 'Health Education' classes at my school (he was a Biology teacher.) He stood at the front of an assembly hall, telling us that we were about to watch a very important series of videos. We were taken off to separate classes and I watched in horror as the grim truth about the birds and the bees was revealed to me in glorious technicolour.
I was in a bit of a haze, with all usual social coolness (which was pretty slight anyway) stripped away. So when the teacher asked us, “Hands up anyone that that was news to?”, my gut honesty kicked in before my street cred could rein it in. As my hand rose into the air, I noticed that only one other person out of 30 had their hand in the air. Nightmare! And the next week the other lad fainted off his stool during the giving birth video, so I wasn't in great company .
What do you invest in the next generation?
Time - with the folks I mentor and do workshops with.
I hope the books and writing and CDs have an impact too.
Will we see a grassroots groundswell movement emerging on behalf of the poor?
We can see it already. The church will only really have an impact on the poor whenever we aren't just singing songs about the poor or doing things on behalf of them, but living with them.
How can we increase wellbeing in society in the next 10 years?
Stop. Pray. Give. Sport. Commune.