We all need loyal oppositon.

The thing is with you, you always think you’re right.

How often have I heard that in my life?  ‘The thing is’, when you have to make lots of decisions everyday you do make them based on your judgement; I mean how else are you going to make them? You just have to believe you are making the right decision at the time.

If you make decisions based on other people’s perspective and it goes horribly wrong, believe me, you always live to regret it.  If you make the decision based on your judgement, well, you only have yourself to blame.

I’ve now got to the stage where I don’t ask opinions on my work, I only ask them if they have any ideas as to how I can maximise an idea or a project’s potential.

This is something I learned the hard way.  As a kid I would work on a song or record and then ask people to critique it…and they would.  The trouble was whilst they might have been trying their best to be honest it didn’t half hurt and instead of moving onwards and upwards I would often find myself falling into the depths of despair.

I remember one review for a record of mine which started off with a eulogy about what a ‘nice guy’ I was supposed to be.  They then went into total meltdown about how rubbish my songs were. I did end up sending the reviewer an email in response.  I said ‘Thank you for the review.  Just one factual error…I’m not that nice!’.

As an artiste you have to protect yourself otherwise you find yourself at the mercy of every critic trying to make a joke at your expense or some social media troll wanting to score some points.  If you then have to defend a record, film or tv programme that you only made based on someone else’s decisions, it’s even harder to take.

But all of this doesn’t mean I won’t and don’t listen, it just means I won’t listen to just anyone. There was the story I heard about a very famous rock star who would stop people walking past their studio.  He would bring them into the control room to hear a new song and ask them what they thought. If they didn’t like it he would throw it away.

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Me asking Andrew Griffiths to disagree if he thought I was wrong.

These days I only listen to people whose opinions I can accept come from the right place; people who want the best for me rather than just want to score points. On my new album ‘Butterfly’ I had to come to a new understanding with my arranger Andrew Griffiths.  The problem was our relationship started when he came to my studio on work experience some 30 years ago.  After that I employed him as a brass player.  On the new album I was asking him to bring a new sound of strings and brass to the project, his sound.

At first he did what I asked him to do.  The arrangements were terrific.  Then on one track I asked him could he change the opening 8 bars.  Within an hour he had and sent me the new arrangement.  I had a listen and thought to myself, actually I preferred the way it sounded before.  When I rang him to apologise for the changes he said, ‘I knew that it was wrong when I was changing it.’

At that point I had to say our relationship is changing.  Yes, I’ll have to make the final decision but challenge me if you disagree, you have that authority and I won’t be offended…well not too much!

Whoever we are and whatever we do we all need to be challenged, we need people whose job it is to hold us to account, to question our decisions, people who want us to be better.

We all need a loyal opposition.

Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is the title usually given to the largest party in the House of Commons who is not in government.  The idea is the government make decisions that they think are right but there is a duty on the opposition parties to hold them to account. To ask difficult questions that in theory should make the government of the day maybe think twice.  Having said that, it might be hard to believe as we watch Prime Ministers Question Time; it just seems to be a bit of pantomime knock about with each party trying to score points in short ‘social media’ sound bites.

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Keir Starmer asking the difficult questions…with evidence

For our system to work effectively the opposition must be strong and forensic in its questioning of the government of the day. With that in mind there is a very important vote taking place over the next month which will not only affect the Labour party but also the way our country functions over the next 5 years.

Next week sees the start of a process to choose the new Labour leader.  There are 3 candidates, Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long Bailey and Sir Kier Starmer.

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I first met Keir last summer when he visited one of Carolyn Harris’s Summer Lunch Clubs.  Carolyn Harris is a very active MP for Swansea East.  I knew she would work hard and be effective as an MP.  I’ve known her since we were kids, going to the same school and Sunday School.

What I’ve noticed about a lot of ‘important’ people is that they like to talk, usually about themselves. Keir seemed different.  He wanted to know about the city; how we were feeling about the big issues of the day.

I mentioned I had been on jury service, something as a QC he is not going to experience.  He wanted to know if I thought the system worked and I told him I did.  We both agreed we had a great belief in the wisdom of people to make the right decisions if they are given the full facts from both sides so long as there was a judge there to make sure no one disobeyed the rules.

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This week I was asked to host a rally in Newport which was addressed by one of the Labour leadership candidates Sir Keir Starmer.  Over 300 people turned up to show their support.  Over the next few weeks Keir’s team have a goal of speaking to over 500,000 labour members to get their views and to also ask them to support Keir’s bid to become the new leader of the opposition.  The person who stands across the aisle from the Prime Minister and asks the difficult questions that need to be asked.

Sometimes politics can appear to be like a sport.  We support and love everything about our side and hate everyone else. I would suggest that whoever you ‘support’ politically, finding the right person to lead a loyal opposition is essential to hold government to account and to hopefully stop us making decisions without questioning them

I don’t know the other candidates. Although I’m sure they have strong attributes, I do have an opinion about Sir Keir Starmer. He listens, he is decisive and his years of training as a QC give him all the skills someone needs to ask the difficult questions that need asking.  I think he’s made for the job.

The thing is about me, ‘I always think I’m right.’

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