Nick Clegg: the five books that have most influenced my politicial views

Liberal Democrat Voice has asked both leadership candidates to list the five books that have most influenced their political views, along with an explanation for their choice. Chris Huhne’s piece will appear later today.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a home filled with books. They’re a huge part of my life and shaped so much of how I think and feel. But if I’m honest, the biggest political influence in my life wasn’t Mill, Rawls or Berlin, however much I respect and admire them. I became a liberal not in a library, but over the dinner table, in the car, in the park – in conversation with my mum.

My mum spent her early childhood in a prisoner of war camp. Her stories, and those of my father’s mother, who fled the Russian revolution, formed in me an understanding even as a tiny child that freedom matters. And I hope I’ve inherited some of my mum’s unerring compassion, her ability to see potential in everyone, her despair at the class system, and her total belief in justice.

But top of my booklist are:

J. M. Coetzee: Life and Times of Michael K
Coetzee, in my view, is one of the greatest – if also most harrowing – of writers alive today. This book is an unsentimental look at how one individual shunned the violence and politics of a society in turmoil, and kept his dignity throughout.

Jean Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea
One of the most powerful books I have ever read. Though short, it casts an uncompromising light on gender inequality and the long road towards the emancipation of women. Her rewriting of the mad Mrs Rochester is one of the great radical subversions in British literature.
 
J.S.Mill: On Liberty
For me, Mill’s the cornerstone of a remarkable tradition of liberal British political thought. There are lots of seminal texts for liberals, all of which have been important to me – Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, and Berlin’s Two Concepts of Liberty for starters. But Mill pips them to the post.

George Orwell: Animal Farm
There’s no more powerful exhortation of the way the best intentions can be corrupted by tyranny than Animal Farm. Orwell was a powerful visionary, and I also find myself referring to 1984 in my work on the surveillance state far more than I wish I needed to.

Carl Sagan: Pale Blue Dot
I can do no better than quote Sagan, in his response to that picture of the tiny vulnerable world, as seen from outer space. “It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

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This entry was posted in Books and Leadership Election.
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4 Comments

  • Barchart please!

  • I really like Nick’s intro – it’s beautifully written.

  • Mike Hanlon 28th Nov '07 - 7:31pm

    How cheesy … gender inequality, civil liberties, the planet. Tick those policy boxes!

    Shame we couldn’t have had an answer from Nick himself, rather than some PR wonk.

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