Tag Archives: edinburgh book festival

When Laura Bates taught Nick Clegg a few things…

If I had known, 30 years ago, that there would be an annual Book Festival in Edinburgh in the last half of August, I’d have put my wedding back a week or two. My lack of foresight means that I’ll be away on a celebratory holiday when both Jo Swinson and Chelsea Clinton are speaking there. Jo is on 22nd August at 18:45 (buy tickets here) and her book, Equal Power, was on sale in the bookshop yesterday.

The tents in Charlotte Square have been my spiritual home in August for some time so yesterday it was great to be there on the first day, especially as Edinburgh Gin seemed to be taking their responsibilities as sponsors very seriously with several new gin bars around the place. For the record, their seaside gin is ok, but not as good as Isle of Harris, which has definitely cornered the market in things that taste like the sea.

I saw Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism project, talk about her new book, Misogynation, which aims to join the dots to highlight the systemic nature of sexism throughout our society. She told some shocking stories – highlighting, for example, evidence that there is the equivalent of one rape every day of term in a UK school.

A lot of the conversation centred around harassment of women in school, online and on the street. She talked about innovative ways of dealing with it. One man, for example, who had recently come to realise the effect of persistent street harassment on his female friends who were having to deal with it, couldn’t work out how to intervene when he saw a woman being crudely catcalled by men on a building site. When they called “Get your t**s out, love” he had a brainwave – and lifted up his t-shirt to make the point that they would never say that sort of thing to him so it wasn’t alright to say it to her.

She also told of a visit to a school where the girls got wind of a plot by the boys to be disruptive and generally unpleasant during her talk. So they left class a few minutes’ early and arranged themselves in every second seat in the hall. So every boy was sitting between two girls so it wasn’t so comfortable for them to heckle. In fact, they actually engaged with the talk.

One of the consequences of the Everyday Sexism project and the hundreds of thousands of examples it has collected over the years is that it has helped to shope policy. The examples of sexual harassment in schools has, finally, forced a change to more inclusive sex education in England – although the devils that will inevitably be in the detail of that are not yet apparent.

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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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Vince talks about his new novel and other things at the Edinburgh Book Festival

I failed miserably when it came to getting Book Festival tickets this year. Starting a new job on the day the tickets came out meant that there were none left by the time I was able to look them up.

Sadly that meant that I missed Vince Cable’s session on his new book, Open Arms, which will be published on 7th September, so you’ll have to rely on the accounts of others.

Susan Mansfield in the Scotsman says he was a congenial Book Festival guest:

“I’m proud of the book, and I wish I’d done it earlier,” Cable said. His protagonist is an “independent-minded” female Conservative MP who becomes a Cabinet minister. “When I was a Cabinet minister, the two things that kept me sane were my weekly dancing lesson and having a pile of novels by the bed.”

 He made for a congenial Book Festival guest, free from the bluster and bombast of many in his line of work. Whether talking about his book, or about wider political issues, he was thoughtful and considered. Predictably enough, the conversation quickly left the novel behind.
On Brexit, Cable offered hope to remainers, saying there is a “significant possibility” that it might not happen. With Corbyn’s Labour Party “on the same page” as the Conservatives with regard to a hard Brexit, he hoped that rebels from both main parties could join forces with the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, and “the thing could unravel”.

In the Independent, he is quoted as saying that the book is “less discreet” than it might have been had he thought he would resume his career:

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Review: Nate Silver at the Edinburgh Book Festival

Nate SilverNate Silver grabbed the headlines  last year when he correctly predicted the outcome of the US presidential election in all 50 states when other commentators were expecting a dead heat. Since then, he has sold his fivethirtyeight blog to ESPN and will continue to edit it, expanding it to become, he hopes, the “go to point for data driven journalists.” It will also give him the chance to  do political punditry for ABC News.

He came to the Edinburgh Book Festival earlier this week to talk about his book The …

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Paddy Ashdown talks about his new book “A brilliant little operation”

I had to stifle a giggle as Paddy Ashdown strode on to the stage at the Edinburgh Book Festival and said:

What are you lot doing here at ten in the morning?

There was a certain irony at this coming from the man who notoriously held meetings at the crack of dawn when he was party leader.

The morning after his “why the world will never be the same again” talk, he was back to tell us about his new book, “A brilliant little operation”, about the founding raid of the Special Boat Service, the special forces unit where he would later serve. …

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Paddy Ashdown: Why the World will never be the same again

Last week, Paddy Ashdown came to the Edinburgh Book Festival. He filled the main theatre twice over with two very different talks.

The first, Why the world will never be the same again, was chaired by the Today Programme’s James Naughtie.

“I wouldn’t trust the UN to run a Liberal Democrat jumble sale”

Speaking without notes and with compelling candour, Paddy told us that we were condemned to living in one of those turbulent times when the balance of power in the world shifts. He saw two such major shifts. The first was a vertical one. Individual nation states could not alone regulate …

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