I've had a varied career – code for being a rolling stone, forever thinking the grass is greener in the next field. Yet my values and attitudes have been pretty constant. Of course, I've changed: the country and the world I grew up in no longer exist. But, despite an early fascination with the Marxist New Left, I've been a liberal social democrat for most of my life, nowadays with a strong dash of republicanism. I've always despised flummery and flunkeyism; I've been instinctively hostile to partisan dogmatism and nationalist xenophobia; and I've loathed cruelty and intolerance, Left as well as Right. And, as an academic, I've been an inveterate crosser of disciplinary boundaries.
An account of my career can be found in my CV; here I shall pick out a few key influences. The most important ones came early. I was born into a political-cum-academic-cum-journalistic family. My father, Hilary Marquand, taught industrial relations at the University of Wales and later became a Labour MP and a minister in the post-war Attlee Government. My maternal great-grandfather was founder-editor of the first Labour newspaper in Wales, Llais Llafur (Labour Voice). And I've been torn between the worlds of academia, journalism and politics since my twenties.
Looking back, I realise that I've been incredibly lucky. I was lucky, first, to be too young for the war, but old enough to grow up in Attlee's austere, but hopeful Britain. At university I was taught by one of the greatest British historians of the last century, A.J.P. Taylor. He was a marvellous teacher and an incomparable lecturer. I can still see his eyes glinting with mischief in tutorials. History, he used to say, was 'fun'. It certainly was with him. Taylor and my father could hardly have been more different, but they both influenced me profoundly. From Taylor I learned that obvious explanations are usually wrong; from my father that no one party or faction ever has a monopoly of the truth.
At the absurdly young age of 25, I was appointed a Leader Writer on The Guardian, in those days still published in Manchester – an experience that taught me an invaluable lesson: that London is not England, much less Britain. As an MP in the Sixties and Seventies my education took another turn. My dearest political friend was the brilliant and eloquent Scottish ex-professor, John Mackintosh, whose tragic death at 48 deprived British politics of one of its most stirring voices. In alliance with John, I became a committed parliamentary reformer seeking, with some (but not nearly enough) success, to mitigate the stranglehold of the executive on the House of Commons. I was also inspired by Roy Jenkins, the indomitable – and equally eloquent – leader of Labour's embattled pro-European wing. I had been a European of the head for some time; now I became a European of the heart as well.
Back in academia in the Eighties, Nineties and early-Noughties, I threw myself into three causes. I was a founder-member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and stood unsuccessfully as SDP candidate for High Peak. I still look back on that time as one of the most exciting and fulfilling of my life. I was one of the original signatories of 'Charter 88', a pressure group calling for a written constitution, and served on its Council. Greatly influenced by the charismatic labour historian, Nina Fishman, I did what I could to further the cause of a progressive realignment, starting with tactical voting and embracing the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.
But academic life came first. I published several books and and edited volumes. I co-edited the oldest politics journal in the country, The Political Quarterly. At Salford University in the Eighties I helped to set up a new department of Politics and Contemporary History; at Sheffield in the Nineties I was the first director of a centre we called the Political Economy Research Centre or PERC. In my writing and teaching I wrestled with four main themes: the contradictions of the British state; the democratic deficit in the European Union; the strengths and weaknesses of the progressive tradition in British politics; and the need for a new governing philosophy to challenge the market fundamentalism of the Right and the obsolescent state socialism of the Left.
Then came the greatest stroke of luck of my entire career. I was invited, out of the blue, to apply for the Principalship of Mansfield College, Oxford; and to my astonishment I got the job. I loved the College, and look back on my six years as Principal with delight. Since retiring I have gone on writing and publishing. (For the results see the books and articles listed here.) And there is more to come.