Category Archives: Books

International Women’s Day: Could there ever be a Lib Dem Jess Phillips?

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Book review – “The Long and Winding Road” by Alan Johnson

“The Long and Winding Road” is the third in Alan Johnson’s trilogy of memoirs. The previous two books are: “This Boy“, about his harrowing childhood and “Please Mister Postman” about his days delivering the Royal Mail. (You’ll notice that all the books are titled after songs from Alan Johnson’s heroes – The Beatles).

I’ve reviewed both previous books here on LDV (see links above), and to a large extent it helps to read the whole series from the beginning. If you pick up “The Long and Winding Road”, the subject matter, the daily grind of a union leader, an MP and a jobbing minister, can strike one, at first, as rather uninteresting. However, if you’ve stuck with Alan Johnson as he described his appalling upbringing and the detail of his postal work, his “voice” tends to get inside one, and you tend to empathise as he forges on up into the heady heights of the political world.

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Review of “The Joy of Tax” by Richard Murphy

Last year Richard Murphy, well-known through his involvement with the Tax Justice Network, expanded his ideas into a paperback book The Joy of Tax. His association with Jeremy Corbyn may cause Liberal Democrats to reject his ideas, but I argue here that even if we reject his solutions, which include both Basic Income and local Land Value Tax, we should take seriously his criticism of the existing tax system and his analysis of the purpose of taxation.

After a short historical introduction in which he develops the idea of tax as being the band that holds together the Social Contract between a people and their government, he examines how the Government raises its revenue. We are all familiar with the three big taxes: income tax, National Insurance and VAT, which together raise just under 65% of all taxation, national and local, but Murphy also looks at the large number of taxes that raise the remainder and the justification for them.

He covers six reasons why Governments should tax:

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Roy was right – and so was Nick

Nick Clegg’s excellent book, Politics: Between the Extremes, released in September, provides a useful perspective on the new parameters which seem to define British politics. As became clear in 2016, politics is not just a battle between right and left or statist versus anti-statist perspectives any more, but between open versus closed economies and Brexit versus Remain.

But I think Clegg’s analysis would have benefited from exploring more deeply how old and therefore un-random these changes are.  Specifically, Clegg’s Twelfth Chapter Was Roy Right? suggests Roy Jenkins– who died in 2003 and in the 1980s was the leading political and intellectual force behind the SDP and Lib Dems– would not have agreed with his view of cross-party cooperation, or that the only division in politics is between left and right.

There is, in fact, plenty of evidence to suggest that Jenkins would have shared Clegg’s analysis. Indeed, I think Jenkins would have likely been his strongest supporter in the Coalition years and would have spoken against the criticisms made of Clegg, implicitly in his name, principally by Lord Oakeshott, Jenkins’ former Special Adviser, who see the Liberal Democrats as effectively a subsidiary of the wider left.

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Book review – Jeremy Paxman: A Life in Questions

Santa kindly got me this book. I have just finished it – which for me counts as “speed reading”. (I once spent an entire year reading “To kill a mocking bird“).

Jeremy Paxman’s memoirs, “A Life in Questions” is an excellent read – it presents a journalist of great integrity, an interesting life story which is, in turns, fascinating, gripping and, sometimes, hilarious.

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Book review – Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero by Chris Matthews

Books and films about the last second of President John F Kennedy’s life have been plentiful. “Jack Kennedy – Elusive hero” by Chris Matthews is a very engaging book which focusses on the great politician’s life before that last second.

Chris Matthews is a very well-known US TV broadcaster. He prefaces this book in a personal context – explaining his great admiration for JFK. The book does an excellent job in answering the key question which John F Kennedy himself described as the pivotal one for biographies: “What was he like?”

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What really is “Kafkaesque”?

Kafka statue Prague
I’d heard the word “Kafkaesque” being bandied around for years, but only had a vague idea what it meant.

So, upon recently renewing my local library card, I was emboldened to take out their copy of “The Trial” to try to find out what “Kafkaesque” really means – or should mean. (Often words, which are misused, metamorphisise officially to their misused meaning. “Literally” is now accepted as often meaning “used for emphasis while not being literally true”.)

A friend commented: “Ahah! Starting with the light reads, eh?”

In fact, I was greatly impressed by the attractive narrative style of Franz Kafka. There are two horrendously violent incidents in the book. Apart from that, the story proceeds in a very charming and engaging way. The narrator and the subject seem to be intertwined.

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