Graham Wetherall

Graham is Associate Editor, part of the Institute’s communications team. He researches and writes articles and prepares book manuscripts, interviews, and press releases for publication.

How would you describe your journey so far? What is your background, and what sparked your interest in currently working to support political innovation?

My journey has been very varied. I spent a long time studying, first politics and then philosophy. After studying, I worked as a translator and editor, mainly of academic texts, but also music journalism and film subtitles. Studying philosophy taught me how to be precise with words, and how complex ideas can be made accessible and compelling if formulated in the right way.

My interest in politics began when I was a teenager. But I was often frustrated with how we tend to talk about politics, focusing on parties or individuals and their day-to-day power struggles. It’s a real privilege to work with the people I work with today, and to help to shed light on all the positive things going on in politics right now. We should all talk about them more.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from a work of fiction?

Never bring a giant ape to New York.

Which protagonist from a book or movie would make the worst roommate?

Philip Marlowe in the film version of The Long Goodbye, with Elliott Gould. He has a nice cat, but also a knack for bringing trouble home with him.

What’s the funniest word in the English language?

“Collywobbles” is a pretty good one.

What profession doesn’t get enough credit or respect?

My younger sister is a psychiatric nurse. It comes with a huge amount of responsibility, caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our societies, often with very limited resources.

What’s the worst thing you’ve eaten out of politeness?

I’m not sure what it was, that was the whole problem. I think I managed to keep smiling.

What’s a piece of transferable knowledge from your skill box that you would like to share with us?

The major constant in everything I’ve done has been writing. Good writing is a vital component of the thinking process. It helps you to understand your own ideas more clearly—which is a precondition for communicating them to anyone else. Whenever you have a problem to solve, write it down, give it a structure, and things will become clearer.

Please name a must-read political book.

Jacques Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster. It tells the story of a French teacher in the 19th century who realised he could teach classes on subjects he knew nothing about, just by giving his students tasks and having them work things out alone or with one another. Rancière suggests that we tend to think about education in a hierarchical way, with an expert who gradually imparts their knowledge to students. Instead, he argues that we should see teachers as setting students on the path of intellectual emancipation. It’s a radically democratic idea: Everyone has the potential to learn, if they are given the means to do so.

The book came to mind recently when I was talking to the people behind the IPA 2021 winner in the education category, kood/Jõhvi, as well as another nominee, The Citizens’ University of Larissa. They pointed out to me how essential critical thinking is for democracy to flourish, and how everyone can participate in democracy if we only give them the means to do so. This means opening up lifelong learning to as many people as possible, and catering to the different ways individuals learn.