Tag Archives: books

Jo Swinson MP writes…Wringing our hands or shrugging our shoulders isn’t enough to fight discrimination

Editor’s Note: Out this month is Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson’s book Equal Power. Here she writes about the battle for equality and you can get her new book yourself from Amazon, Hive or The Guardian bookshop.

With rampant sexual harassment at a corporate charity dinner, the BBC accused of breaking equal pay law, and Easyjet’s new male CEO admitting he was offered £34,000 more to do the same job as his female predecessor, you don’t need to look far to find gender inequality in the news. And that’s just stories from one week.

When I was the Liberal Democrat Minister for Women, I learned that many seemingly different issues – the gender pay gap, violence against women, workplace discrimination, body image, division of caring responsibilities, gender stereotypes, women’s under-representation in politics – are all different parts of the same fiendishly difficult jigsaw. Tackling the problem of gender inequality means chipping away at all of these issues simultaneously because together they reinforce the entrenched power imbalance between men and women.

The backlash in the letters page of the Financial Times last week showed what we’re up against, as writers bemoaned the FT even covering the issue of sexual harassment, and referred to the women groped in their workplace as “silly young girls”. When I spoke out on television – albeit colourfully – against the everyday sexism and misogyny that sees schoolgirls sexually harassed, I was called a “little missy”.

It should be a core mission for us as liberals to challenge concentrations of power, including the power hoarded in the hands of rich, white men.

Gendered assumptions are everywhere. While women bear the brunt of these injustices, rigid cultural expectations about gender also harm men, not least in terms of their mental health. Men are also undervalued in their role as fathers, something I started trying to change with the introduction of shared parental leave.

Our party is not immune to the sexism that permeates through every part of society, but we can all act – individually and collectively – to be part of the solution. We need to recognise the nature of the problem: it is structural and ingrained in each and every one of us, absorbed from the surrounding culture. Changing it takes constant attention and proactive effort. Wringing our hands or shrugging our shoulders when few women ‘come forward’ won’t cut it for our party in 2018.

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An interesting observation from David Laws

Biteback has recently published David Laws’ Coalition Diaries, 2012-15. They are well worth a read.  Unlike his Coalition book published last year, these contemperaneous diaries aren’t nicely organised into different subjects and you tend to get more of a flavour of the frustrations and emotions that were going on at the time.

I am wending my way through the 560 page volume and will drop you the odd snippet while I read.

John Rentoul seems to be doing the same, on Twitter. He posted an account of a meeting between the Tory Chief Whip Sir George Young and Tory Ministers which …

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Waste of public money and adventures in foreign journalism – an evening at the Edinburgh Book Festival

Jim Naughtie introduces Margaret Hodge

My spiritual home in August is usually Charlotte Square in Edinburgh at the heart of the Edinburgh Book Festival.

This year, I didn’t manage to get there at all until the very last night.

I showed up at 6pm after work without much hope of getting tickets for anything at that late stage. How wrong could I be?

I managed to buy returned tickets for both Margaret Hodge, the former Chair of the Public Accounts Committee and the amazing foreign correspondent John Simpson.

Margaret Hodge was there to talk about her book, Called to Account, and she  told us about an encounter with her predecessor just after she was elected PAC Chair. David Davis, before he became a fully paid up member of the establishment,  told her to go after Vodaphone on tax.

Keen to track down evidence of a deal between HMRC and the corporate giant, she summoned a senior HMRC official who denied everything. A suggestion from a committee colleague that the official be put on oath led to a 20 minute hunt for a Bible.

She outlined a few areas where public money could be better spent. The MOD apparently spends a fortune on polo lessons. That’s the charging around on horses clunking balls with mallets, not the mint with the hole.

A telling moment was when she changed her mind on the Private Finance Initiative which her party saddled us with. She thought they were a good idea but now sees them as a complete con, with NHS trusts having to pay off their debt before they pay a single doctor.

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Book Review: The Residence: Inside the private world of the White House

The Residence cover

If you get a chance over the Summer, have a read of Kate Andersen Brower’s book detailing the history and lives of the people who look after the first families at the White House. Find out about their relationships with the various occupants of the biggest goldfish bowl on the planet.  From the Roosevelts to the Obamas, find out about the details of domestic life and the varying relationships between staff and residents.

It is a little biased towards the Republicans and if you know a lot about US politics, there are no new sensational revelations, but it is a fascinating read nonetheless. My emotions went from sympathy for the Clintons and Obamas to annoyance with Lyndon Johnson’s obsession with his shower.  You feel the shock and fear around the Kennedy assassination and 9/11. How does it feel when you realise that your workplace could be the next target – especially when you leave some of your colleagues behind.

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Miriam Gonzalez Durantez on her new cookery book to raise money for her Inspiring Girls campaign.

Miriam González Durántez by Cabinet OfficeTheresa May apparently has over 100 cookbooks. That’s probably the one thing she and I have in common. I actually have a stack of them by my bedside table so I can dip in and out of them when I want. I tend to read them for pleasure as much as cook from them. I particularly like books which have a story around them to go along with the food.

That’s why Those Who Need to Know are under no illusions as to how disappointed I’d be if I didn’t get Miriam Gonzalez Durantez’s new book, Made in Spain, for my upcoming birthday. It’s conveniently being published just three days before.

On Thursday, Miriam appeared on ITV’s Lorraine show (from about 15 minutes in). She brought along some delicious looking food and talked a bit about some of the recipes. She also talked about her feelings on Brexit. You can also be under no illusion that she’s not very impressed with the new Foreign Secretary. I haven’t watched Lorraine in a long time and had forgotten how much I enjoyed her lovely and informal manner. Also, if you are as trashy as I am, Bucks Fizz are on the show too. If, like me, you are a die-hard Eurovision geek, it’s a must-see.

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Nick Clegg’s new book announced

If you were wondering what former Special Adviser Phil Reilly had been up to lately, he reveals all today on his blog,

Blimey O’Reilly

He’s been helping Nick Clegg write a book about the febrile nature of today’s politics. It’ll be published next year:

For the last few months I have had the privilege of helping Nick Clegg to prepare his upcoming book (hence the sporadic nature of these blogs), which has been formally announced by the publisher today. Politics: The Art of the Possible in an Age of Unreason will be published next year on The Bodley Head, an arm of Penguin Random House.

Nick has been clear from the start that he didn’t want to write a long-winded political memoir or a salacious kiss and tell. This is a serious book that uses his experience at the top and bottom of British politics, and his time in government in particular, to grapple with a big question: why has politics become so volatile and unpredictable? From Cleggmania and Corbynmania to the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the unlikely has become the commonplace. From the SNP and UKIP at home to Syriza and Podemos abroad, populism and the politics of identity is on the rise. In Politics, Nick explores why that is and what the future holds, especially for those who believe in the politics of evidence, reason and compromise.

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Opinion: Liberalism Unlocked: After the Coalition

On the eve of conference, a major new book on Liberalism is being published. “Unlocking Liberalism: Life after the Coalition” is a book of essays exploring what Liberalism should mean today, and how it can be taken forward after the 2015 General Election.

With a foreword by Charles Kennedy, the book starts with a masterly essay on the philosophy of Liberalism by Dr Nigel Dower of Aberdeen University, a lifelong Liberal who is a past president of the International Development Ethics Association.  This is followed by contributions from David Steel and Graham Watson, who examine Scotland and Britain after the Referendum, and Britain’s place in Europe.

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  • User AvatarRoland 24th Feb - 4:39pm
    @Peter Martin - "It’s always interesting to read Keynes and other notable economists from past eras too. But I don’t believe we should hang on...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 24th Feb - 4:27pm
    @ Michael BG, Sure, Govt can steer the economy. It can raise or lower interest rates to encourage everyone to save more or less. It...
  • User AvatarRonald Murray 24th Feb - 4:17pm
    As a third generation Liberal now Liberal Democrat with over forty years membership I find all the points made above excellent. There is no comparison...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 24th Feb - 3:58pm
    @ JoeB, It's always interesting to read Keynes and other notable economists from past eras too. But I don't believe we should hang on to...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 24th Feb - 3:53pm
    @ Peter Martin In the context of what is a stimulus and what is austerity and how is the economy affected generally when the deficit...
  • User AvatarJoeB 24th Feb - 2:55pm
    Peter Martin, regarding the issue of capital expenditure the paper referenced above outlines Keynes reasoning. "Keynes was opposed to deficit spending in the sense of...