Tag Archives: book reviews

Jane Bonham Carter reviews biography of Marie Colvin

I always liked reading Marie Colvin’s reports from war zones. She brought the stories of people whose lives were constrained or ruined by war to our breakfast tables. She made you understand the dilemmas and dangers people faced just to get through the day.

Colvin died in Syria in 2012. Her friend, Lib Dem Peer Jane Bonham-Carter, reviewed a new biography of her written by Channel 4’s Lindsey Hillsum in this week’s Sunday Times.

She was extraordinarily brave. The stories of Marie’s courage are legion, but the one that stands out for me was East Timor. There, holed up in 1999 in a UN compound with 1,500 women and children, she and two other heroic female reporters, Minka Nijhuis and Irena Cristalis, refused to go when an evacuation of international and national staff and the press was announced. She stayed, reported on the plight of those left trapped via her satellite phone, and after four tense days was able to leave for safety. Not an outcome she expected — her sister Cat remembers her calling “to say goodbye as she was likely to be killed”. Marie later wrote that “staying in the East Timor compound was one of the moments in my life of which I am most proud”.

As Hilsum notes, Marie was hopeless with technology, frequently erasing stories by accident and needing help to send copy from her computer. But, as I saw countless times, she had an extraordinary ability to get people to open up to her. What she wanted to do was tell people’s stories, and relay their words to the outside world.

Despite her apparent addiction to danger, she did not court death. She loved life, absolutely loved it — loved young people, too, and was loved in return by them. But she had her own horrors to deal with, in particular in Sri Lanka in 2001, where, despite clearly identifying herself as a journalist, yelling it, in fact, she was fired on by a government soldier.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

Review: Yes we (still) can, by Dan Pfeiffer

I have avoided reading too much by former Obama staffers because, as I watch the racist, misogynist monster in the White House play havoc with the most basic of human rights, I just get too sad. I definitely appreciated what we had while we had it, making its loss acute. Similarly, watching The West Wing  feels a bit masochistic sometimes.

There is very little point in languishing, though. Obama’s people survived 8 years of a Republican onslaught, from actual bare-faced lies and fake news to serious national and international crises. It stands to reason that they have a lot to teach …

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 7 Comments

Book Review – Power to the People: Confessions of a Young Liberal Activist 1975 – 1987 by Felix Dodds

Felix Dodds, who was Chair of the National League of Young Liberal (NLYL) 1985-1987 and led the so-called Green Guard, inheritors of the late 60s/early 70s YLs Red Guard mantle, wrote this book to inspire and give hope to today’s young people at a time when politics seems a much more cynical and jaded business than the last time we had a Tory female Prime Minister and were arguing about Europe.

Dodds ‘confessions’ tell of his involvement with the YLs starting as a 6th former in Hertfordshire, having been inspired by the Kennedy …

Posted in Books | Also tagged | 14 Comments

Book review: My life on the road by Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steimen My life on the road coverI read this book as the primary campaigns started in the US earlier this year. There is a chapter dedicated to the misogynistic bile directed at Hillary Clinton in 2008, which seems tame given what she’s getting now. “Life’s a b****. Don’t vote for one.” was an actual badge being sold by Republicans in Cleveland at their convention. I’d like to think that Federal Conference Committee Chair Andrew Wiseman would fling out anyone selling similar at a Liberal Democrat Conference.

My Life on the Road details four decades of travel all over the world as Gloria Steinem’s work took her to all sorts of  places. It is a wise and gentle book which is primarily about bringing people together and making sure diverse voices were heard. It’s a great insight in to the  history of the feminist movement and the importance of intersectionality within that.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

Lynne Featherstone’s “Equal ever after” is out now – how same sex marriage became a reality (with added Lib Dem flouncing)

Lynne Featherstone Equal Ever AfterLast night, at a glitzy party, Lynne Featherstone’s book, Equal ever after was launched. In it she tells the story of  her crusade as Equalities Minister to deliver same sex marriage.

The launch was attended by Nick Clegg, Jo Swinson, Julian Huppert and many, many more. Sadly, I wasn’t there, even though I was in London. I was at a meeting of the Federal Finance and Administration Committee instead.

You have to wonder what position Jo Swinson was in when she took this:

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 2 Comments

Book review: ‘This Boy’ by Alan Johnson

this boyWhile this is a very late review, hopefully it will persuade anyone left in the political community, who has not read Alan Johnson’s “This Boy”, to read it.

I tend to read at a snail’s pace and also have a habit of (accidentally) reading volumes of memoirs back to front chronologically. I read both Alan Clark’s and Chris Mullin’s volumes backwards. I read and reviewed Alan Johnson’s later work “Please Mister Postman” last summer. Just before Christmas I was kindly loaned “This Boy”.

The book is a remarkably detailed, harrowing account of a one-parent (and then no-parent) family living in 1950s/60s London in grinding, distressing poverty as the parent suffers increasingly failing health. Abandoned by her husband, Johnson’s mother, Lily, works all the hours God sends, and struggles bravely to bring up her children, Linda and Alan. Living in appalling slum conditions, they manage to survive through various trials and hardships. Linda emerges as a great confidante of her mother and a strong pseudo-parent for Alan as she grows into a young adult.

Posted in Books | Also tagged | 6 Comments

Book Review: The Cruel Victory: The French Resistance, D-Day and the Battle for the Vercors 1944 by Paddy Ashdown

paddy book 2It is not like me to read books about wars and battles, but after being so moved and angered by Paddy Ashdown’s excellent portrayal of the inaugural mission of the Special Boat Service, A Brilliant Little Operation, I knew that I had to buy his next book.

The Cruel Victory tells the story of the brave Resistance fighters who briefly controlled the Vercors plateau in south-east France in the Summer of 1944. The original plan was for the Vercors to be secured to help an Allied invasion from the south, but for various reasons, the support that the fighters on the ground needed was not forthcoming. If people had been smarter in their decision making, at least some of it could have been and lives could have been saved.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 7 Comments

Book Review: Revolt on the Right by Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin

Farage ukip - Some rights reserved by Astral MediaOne of the political debates over UKIP is the question of whether it is primarily taking its support from disgruntled Conservatives or not.

Leading the charge for the ‘yes’ camp are several recent large-scale polls (or conglomeration of separate polls) from reputable polling companies. Looking at how people who currently say they’ll vote UKIP behaved in 2010, the pattern seems clear: UKIP’s growth in support predominantly comes from ex-Tories.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 5 Comments

Book Review: Austerity: the history of a dangerous idea

Mark Blyth delivers a masterful, blistering, devastating, and totally convincing critique of austerity in his book Austerity: the history of a dangerous idea. It’s impossible to read this book and still believe that austerity is the right policy. Blyth writes engaging, powerful economic history of economies applying austerity, including the US, UK, Sweden, Germany, Japan and France in the 1920s and 1930s, Denmark and Ireland in the 1980s, and the Baltic states in 2008, demonstrating in each case that austerity does not work. It does not generate growth or reduce debt. He shows that the current hot spot crises …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 45 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarGlenn 10th Dec - 6:45am
    leave voters tend to be older . Older people aren't so easy to get marching about . This is why political "causes" tend to like...
  • User AvatarDenis Loretto 10th Dec - 12:10am
    The last thing we need is any hint of squabbling within the growing People's Vote campaign of which we Lib Dems are clearly an integral...
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 10th Dec - 12:01am
    I don't think that People's Vote is sidelining the Liberal Democrats. The issue is that the amendment does not have cross party support or the...
  • User Avatarfrankie 9th Dec - 10:45pm
    Interesting to see the much vaunted Betrayal of Brexit managed to garner 500 more people than a meeting in the Excel Centre. They lack the...
  • User AvatarTony Greaves 9th Dec - 10:43pm
    My good friend Bill le Breton is wrong again in this thread! Twice in a row!! Perhaps I should have a good talk with him...
  • User AvatarTonyH 9th Dec - 10:27pm
    I agree that Caroline Lucas is a better public advocate than Vince. I don't agree that she is better than Layla or Christine or Tom....