“I’m sorry, I got it badly wrong, here’s what I’ve learnt…” A much-needed reality check


Me taking responsibility for my conduct when I misjudge things badly.

This relates to a conference I was at on musical inclusion – which I blogged about here. Just over three weeks after the event, musician Martin Case posted a long and powerful comment really taking me to task over my conduct – it’s worth reading his comments in full here. Because this will explain why I am responding as I am.

Firstly, me apologising not just to Martin but to others regarding my interventions – including the organisers.



I misjudged the event and the audience, and clearly completely failed to show the sort of self-awareness that I like to think is one of my strong points. That fault is mine and mine entirely.

That is why I am publishing this blogpost response (and just as importantly publicising it), and publishing & publicising unedited Martin’s comments in full.

Secondly, how and why did I get this so badly wrong? – A reflection

When I first read Martin’s comments, I felt like I had just been kicked in the stomach very very hard. My friend Ceri was with me at the time and could see that I had read something that had hit me hard.

“Wounded pride? Why not fight back?”

Walking back from town, the phrase from one of my favourite books, Dreadnought by RK Massie was screaming in my mind.

“In testimony before a Royal Commission investigating the errors of the Boer War, a British general had described the marksmanship of the naval gunners sent to help in the defense (sic) of Ladysmith as something “which would have disgraced a girls’ school” [Admiral and Second Sea Lord] Fisher was furious – the more so because he knew it to be true.”

I am furious – with myself. I am angry – with myself because it took someone else who I don’t know to write a well-written and thought-through response on my blog telling me so. And I’m hurt.

How and why?

Martin’s spot on. I went with an agenda all about me and my history. Combining that with what I can only describe as ‘misguided passion to slay some historical demons’ made for me being a ‘toxic delegate’ the very sort of delegate that in other tweets/blogposts  at other events I have probably criticised myself.

Even though there were a number of really interesting and innovative projects, my mindset on the day was all too focused on me, me, me. On reflection, I didn’t do nearly enough of what I try to do normally at events – which is basically to be like this big sponge absorbing as much information, knowledge, energy and inspiration from those there. As a result, I pissed off too many of the very people who Cambridge (my home) ***needs*** the help, guidance and support of. It was utterly avoidable on my part and again, I am sorry.

“So…what have you learnt from all of this? What change of behaviour will you make as a result?”

Again, on reflection (I’m actually finding this more emotionally painful than perhaps I had expected when I started writing it – but that’s part of the learning process), I think I was probably due a ‘dressing down’ like this. Some of you will have noticed the tone of my blogposts have over the past 12 months become that little bit more aggressive. A couple of people have mentioned that I probably want to tone it down a little. Hence seeing Martin’s timely comments as that ‘wake up call.’

In terms of specifics, things I’ve already done include:

  • This post for a start – the response and the publicity of it
  • Getting back into listening-mode again
  • Spending much of the next year in active learning mode as planned
  • Reducing the number and scope of things that I’m getting involved in/following – learning to say ‘no’ when it’s not my time/space to pass comment/judgement
  • Walking away from confrontation – of which there is ***lots*** in the political/public policy sphere.

So, thank you once again to Martin for his piece – in particular for taking the time and effort for writing it. (For those of you less familiar with blogging, it can be an emotionally draining process even on issues you’re passionate about). I hope you’ll accept this post in the spirit it’s been written in.

Best wishes & good luck!


[Updated to add follow-up tweets – apology accepted & all is well and good. A lesson learnt by me.]


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