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By Judith Long, Thu 20th Feb 2014
Investigative journalist, Chapman Pincher, has spent a lifetime exposing official secrets. During a stint in the army in the Second World War, Pincher developed an interest in weapons and how they worked – an interest which opened the door to an unexpected and exciting career. Although he retired from Fleet Street in 1979, he continues to investigate and collect evidence to this day.
In his autobiography published this week, Chapman Pincher : Dangerous To Know, he reveals how he built up some of his biggest cases, how he made and used his connections for information and how, with what he calls “far more than a fair share of lucky breaks”, he got worldwide scoops time and time again.
Here’s a sneak peek from Chapter Three – Rocket Man:
When, in August 1945, news of the destruction of Hiroshima by one atomic bomb astonished the world, [Express editor] Christiansen was told by Lord Beaverbrook that the event was so historic that he must keep the story going on the front page for a fortnight. (Foreseeing the vast political implications, Beaverbrook himself had dictated the front-page headline: ‘The Bomb that Has Changed the World’.)
Bound by a secrecy deal with the US, the government issued no newsworthy information. So the editor turned to me in some desperation. I knew that Professor Marcus Oliphant, of Birmingham University, had been involved in the British atomic effort so I telephoned him. Oliphant told me that the US government had released a thick report describing the whole project and that the UK atomic HQ in London had an advance copy. With the agreement of my colonel, who was fascinated to know what was in it, I went there in civilian clothes, gave Oliphant’s name and was allowed to see the now historic Smyth Report, as it was called, and make notes. The colonel gave me a week’s leave, provided that I reported my findings to him each evening, and I went daily to take notes and then write my story which, of course, did not mention the report.
The result was a succession of world scoops because there had been a hold-up on the release of the Smyth Report in Washington! The editor was so impressed and relieved that he offered me the post of defence and scientific reporter on my release from the army, meanwhile expecting me to continue with my clandestine contributions. The salary he offered was many times greater than anything I had earned before and was not restricted by fixed annual increments but would be entirely performance-based. I accepted immediately with delight, having entered the one profession in which I could utilise all my acquired knowledge.
By Sarah Thrift, Tue 11th Feb 2014
Political heavyweights Tony Benn, Jonathan Aitken, Alastair Campbell, Damian McBride, Michael Dobbs, Liam Fox and Alan Johnson join journalists Charles Moore, Max Hastings, Simon Heffer and Jeremy Paxman on the shortlists for the Paddy Power Political Book Awards. Now in their second year, the Paddy Power Political Book Awards celebrate and reward excellence across all areas of political publishing.
Weidenfeld & Nicolson have three titles on the shortlist for Political Book of the Year: Perilous Question by Lady Antonia Fraser, I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb, and Empire of the Deep by Ben Wilson. Other titles shortlisted in this category include Power Trip by Damian McBride (Biteback), Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher (Allen Lane) and This Boy by Alan Johnson (Bantam Press). The winner of the Political Book of the Year will receive a cheque for £10,000 donated by Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC.
There is also a cheque for £3,000 for the winner of the Debut Political Book of the Year, also generously donated by Lord Ashcroft. Titles in this category are People Power by Dan Jellinek (Bantam), Empire of Secrets by Calder Walton (William Collins), Making it Happen by Iain Martin (Simon & Schuster), The Default Line by Faisal Islam (Head of Zeus), The New Middle East by Paul Danahar (Bloomsbury) and Rising Tides: Facing the Challenges of a New Era by Liam Fox (Heron Books).
The awards cover all areas of political writing. Other awards presented on the night include Political Biography of the year in association with Total Politics, Polemic of the Year, Political History Book of the Year in association with News UK, Political Fiction Book of the Year, the Political Humour and Satire Award in association with the InterContinental London Westminster, International Affairs Book of the Year and Practical Politics Book of the Year. There is also a Lifetime Achievement Award in Political Literature. A total of 54 books are shortlisted across all 9 categories.
Iain Dale, founder of the awards, said, ‘Following a hugely successful inaugural year, this year’s Paddy Power Political Book Awards are better than ever. Once again, the calibre of the shortlisted authors is outstanding, offering an inspiring reminder of the breadth of talent on show in political writing.’
Headline sponsor Paddy Power said, ‘Our business is based on the simple idea that betting should be entertaining. And what could be more entertaining than the machinations of politics? Paddy Power has always believed in political betting and going a bit beyond the normal by-election predictions: from running a book on the Papal elections to paying out early for David Cameron at the 2010 general election. We are therefore delighted to support the Political Book Awards again this year. This is a fantastic shortlist and we’re happy to take bets on how many Gyles Brandreth will actually have read by the ceremony on 19th March.’
The judging panels are made up of political journalists and leading political figures including David Trimble, Sir Ming Campbell, Lord Ashcroft, John Pienaar, Carolyn Quinn, Daisy McAndrew, Romilly Weeks, Chris Mullin, Andrew Mitchell, Caroline Shenton, Marilyn Warnick and Mary Beard.
The awards will be presented at a star-studded ceremony on Wednesday 19 March at the BFI IMAX cinema.
For more information please contact email@example.com on 020 7091 1260
SHORTLISTS IN FULL
Polemic of the Year
What Should We Tell Our Daughters? Melissa Benn (John Murray)
The Necessity of Poverty John Bird (Quartet)
The Last Vote Philip Coggan (Allen Lane)
The British Dream David Goodhart (Atlantic Books)
How We Invented Freedom & Why It Matters Daniel Hannan (Head of Zeus)
What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? Tony Juniper (Profile Books)
International Affairs Book of the Year
Chinese Whispers Ben Chu (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Angela Merkel Alan Crawford and Tony Czuczka (Wiley)
The World’s Most Dangerous Place James Fergusson (Bantam)
The War That Ended Peace Margaret MacMillan (Profile Books)
In The Ring Don McKinnon (Elliott & Thompson)
North Korea Undercover John Sweeney (Bantam Press)
Political Fiction Book of The Year
My Name Is… Alastair Campbell (Hutchinson)
A Ghost at the Door Michael Dobbs (Simon & Schuster)
The Kill List Frederick Forsyth (Bantam Press)
The Queen of Four Kingdoms Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent (Constable)
One Night in Winter Simon Sebag Montefiore (Century)
The Wall William Sutcliffe (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Political Biography of The Year in association with Total Politics
Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality Jonathan Aitken (Continuum)
A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine Tony Benn (Hutchinson)
The Pike Lucy Hughes-Hallett (Fourth Estate)
Disraeli Douglas Hurd & Edward Young (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Edmund Burke Jesse Norman (William Collins)
Strictly Ann Ann Widdecombe (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Political Humour and Satire Book of the Year in association with The InterContinental London Westminster
Maggie & Me Damian Barr (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Sign of the Times Peter Brookes (The Robson Press)
Britty Britty Bang Bang Hugh Dennis (Headline)
Private Eye: Annual 2013 edited by Ian Hislop (Private Eye Productions)
Romps, Tots and Boffins Robert Hutton (Elliott & Thompson)
The Prime Minister’s Ironing Board Adam Macqueen (Little, Brown)
Practical Politics Book of the Year
5 Days in May Andrew Adonis (Biteback Publishing)
In It Together Matthew D’Ancona (Viking)
Democracy Ltd Bobby Friedman (Oneworld Publications)
Trading Secrets Mark Huband (I. B. Tauris)
The Blunders of our Governments Anthony King & Ivor Crewe (Oneworld Publications)
The Contemporary House of Lords Meg Russell (Oxford University Press)
Political History Book of the Year in association with News UK
Churchill’s First War Con Coughlin (Macmillan)
An English Affair Richard Davenport-Hines (Harper Press)
Catastrophe Max Hastings (William Collins)
High Minds Simon Heffer (Cornerstone)
Great Britain’s Great War Jeremy Paxman (Viking)
When Britain Burned the White House Peter Snow (John Murray)
Debut Political Book of the Year in association with Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC
The New Middle East Paul Danahar (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Rising Tides Liam Fox (Heron Books)
The Default Line Faisal Islam (Head of Zeus)
People Power Dan Jellinek (Bantam Press)
Making It Happen Iain Martin (Simon & Schuster)
Empire of Secrets Calder Walton (William Collins)
Political Book of the Year in association with Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC
Perilous Question Lady Antonia Fraser (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
This Boy Alan Johnson (Bantam Press)
Power Trip Damian McBride (Biteback Publishing)
Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography Charles Moore (Allen Lane)
Empire of the Deep Ben Wilson (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
I Am Malala Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Paddy Power were one of the first bookmakers to offer betting based on the political landscape and have enjoyed speculating on both the domestic and international scene ever since. Paddy Power is a leading business in the betting and gaming sector with over 300 shops in the UK and Ireland, rapidly expanding mobile and online channels, as well as gaming and B2B ventures across Europe and Australia. Paddy Power takes an unconventional approach to betting and gaming within the industry, offering customers an unparalleled experience based on providing maximum entertainment and value. Headquartered in Dublin, Paddy Power is publicly quoted on both the Irish and London Stock Exchanges.
By Robin Renwick, Wed 22nd Jan 2014
“Like everybody else, I long to be loved. But I am not prepared to make any concessions whatsoever”. Helen Suzman
Ever since I started taking an interest in South African affairs – an interest that began when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, where earnest progressives sought to establish their anti-apartheid credentials by declining to drink South African sherry – the activities of Helen Suzman always seemed to me to offer the clearest beacon of hope that some kind of sanity might in the end prevail.
When, nearly 30 years later, I arrived in South Africa as a fledgling British ambassador, I still had never met this woman I so much admired. I did so with some trepidation. In the course of her political career Mrs Suzman had seen a great many high commissioners, and then ambassadors, come and go, some I am sure more memorable than others. Yet I was greeted with all the friendliness and helpfulness that had been shown to every one of my predecessors and the innumerable other well-intentioned foreigners who regarded Helen Suzman as their most reliable guide to the political labyrinth of apartheid.
I was delighted to find that, in addition to being the most determined and effective opponent of injustice, Helen Suzman also was the most entertaining company it was possible to find in South Africa, or anywhere else for that matter. However difficult the circumstances, lunch with her was sure to end in gales of laughter, and I will never again be able to watch anyone pouring soda into a glass of whisky without hearing Helen say: ‘Don’t drown it!’
Never lacking in resourcefulness, on one well-remembered occasion, trying to avoid violence at a demonstration in Cape Town, she was confronted by a snarling Alsatian police dog straining on its leash to get at her. A dog-lover herself, she ordered the animal to sit, which it proceeded meekly to do, convulsing even the police with laughter at their own expense.
In the course of weekend fishing trips with her in the eastern Transvaal I discovered that, as in her dealings with her political opponents, she did not believe in taking any prisoners. Every trout she caught was dispatched to the smokery and served up for future dinners, while I was painstakingly returning mine to the river from which they came.
Behind the clear blue eyes, sparkling with intelligence, lay a biting wit, steely resolve and utter determination never to let up in her attacks on the system she abhorred until she saw it crumbling around her. Over four decades, she campaigned relentlessly against every manifestation of apartheid – against grand apartheid, forced removals and the homelands policy, detention without trial and all abuses of authority on behalf of the victims and countless millions disenfranchised by the system.
This extract has been taken from the introduction to Helen Suzman – Bright Star in a Dark Chamber by Robin Renwick.
To read the incredible story in full, purchase your copy here
Recent Reviews for Helen Suzman
“Helen Suzman was sharp, incisive, principled and loads of fun. So is this biography." John Carlin, Author of Invictus
“[T]he truest of liberals… this crispy, lucid account is persuasive in presenting her as the doughtiest of fighters for human rights anywhere and one of the finest parliamentarians.” The Economist
“A fascinating insight into the life of a truly great South African… Former British Ambassador to South Africa Robin Renwick has penned a book rich with examples of her humour and political brilliance.” The South African
“A remarkable biography about a memorable woman. As British ambassador to South Africa, Lord Robin Renwick established a lasting friendship with Helen Suzman. Hence the excellence of this biography.” Stanley Uys, veteran South African journalist and political commentator
By Anthony Russell, Thu 19th Dec 2013
An extract from Outrageous Fortune, Chapter 7: Christmas And Crockett
Borrett announced lunch and opened the double doors to the dining room, where a children’s table had been set up in the giant bay window. The pair of late-eighteenth- century Louis XVI Aubusson pastoral tapestries, set in panels, continued their vigilant watch over the long William IV mahogany dining table laid in customary fashion for the grown-ups, with French china and silverware, Baccarat crystal glasses, and lilies of the valley in the centre. A precise replica of the Gloriette’s floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree, decorated for adult consumption, stood in regal splendour in the smaller bay window behind Granny B’s chair at the head of the table. The morning’s activities gave every impression of having turned out well. Despite the disappointment of no Fender Stratocaster, it would have been churlish in the extreme to think otherwise.
As friends and family assembled, footmen in dark suits and ties flew in all directions, assisting ladies with their chairs before dispensing magnums of chilled vintage champagne. Then Borrett, in tails and striped trousers, went around the table serving foie gras de Strasbourg that Woody had brought down, as he always did at Christmas, from Fortnum & Mason, London’s grandest food hall. Because of the tallness of the pot and the firmness of the foie gras, Borrett was obliged to struggle just a little to maintain a dignified posture as each guest attempted to extract the correct portion size of the famed delicacy with a silver serving spoon and fork.
Our table was not invited to try the foie gras, perhaps because no one thought we’d like it. Nanny, David, James, and I, joined by our cousins John and Michael (and Nanny Evans), munched away on chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon and baby triangles of toast as we awaited the arrival of the Christmas turkey.
Finally, with great fanfare, Borrett strode into the room carrying the enormous bird on an oval silver platter, presented it for Granny’s inspection, and immediately took it back to the kitchens for carving. Returning with three footmen in tow, Borrett served the thinly sliced turkey as the footmen offered an array of vegetables, all from silver dishes, including roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts and chestnuts, parsnips and swede, stuffing, bread sauce, and hot gravy.
We, at the children’s table, were served with the same splendid formality. After the grown-ups’ glasses had been refilled for the umpteenth time with more champagne, or claret for those who preferred red wine, and our glasses of water, fruit juice, or Coca-Cola had been topped up, Christmas lunch entered that stage of conviviality so often the hallmark of this day.
Only the arrival of Borrett and a flaming Christmas pudding, as large as a football and stuffed full of sixpences, could adequately crown the occasion. At the time my fondness for this sticky mess of suet, sultanas, raisins, currants, brown sugar, and many other ingredients was limited to a search for the silver coins and a quick sampling of the brandy butter.
When she felt the time was right, Granny B stood, followed by everyone else, and led the ladies out of the dining room, through the library, the main hall, and the inner hall, to the drawing room for coffee, leaving the men to their port, politics, and cigars. This was the cue for the children to retire to the nursery for a rest.
Christmas at Leeds displayed the castle way at its best. The hierarchy softened noticeably, and special consideration was given to all, by all. Time off for the staff included a festive banquet in their own dining room, and Granny B’s oft-beleaguered card-table companions enjoyed the benefit of eased regulation.
Even I, during these few glorious days, found myself treated as something other than a mere annoyance. This forever sealed in my imagination the otherworldliness of the whole thing.
By Ann Treneman, Wed 18th Dec 2013
“Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused – in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened – by the recurrence of Christmas.” – “A Christmas Dinner” from Sketches by Boz (1836)
I am beginning to feel just a bit haunted by Dickens. The man, it seems to me, is almost omnipresent in our lives. Certainly when I was researching my book Finding the Plot: 100 Graves to Visit Before You Die, Dickens seemed to be part of almost every graveyard in one way or another. Either he’d written about it (Cooling in Kent), or someone in it (the funambulist Blondin among several others in my book), or had wanted to be buried in it himself (Kensal Green where his beloved young sister in law Mary Hogarth lies). The man himself is in the Abbey, though I’m not sure he really wanted to be.
And now, of course, it’s Christmas when all of us really are haunted by Dickens, for “A Christmas Carol”, with its many ghosts, is our best loved story. The tale is no stranger to graveyards either. I like to reread it every year and I especially love the bit where Scrooge, accompanied by the Ghost of the Christmas Yet to Come, finds himself in the City listening to businessmen talk about what was, unbeknownst to Scrooge, his death:
“What has he done with his money?” asked a red-faced gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose, that shook like the gills of a turkey.
“I haven’t heard,” said the man with the very large chin, yawning again. “Left it to his Company, perhaps. He hasn’t left it to me. That’s all I know.”
This pleasantry was received with a general laugh.
“It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral,” said the same speaker, “for upon my life I don’t know of anybody to go to it. Suppose we make up a party and volunteer?”
“I don’t mind going if a lunch is provided,” observed the gentleman with the excrescence on his nose. “But I must be fed, if I make one.”
Scrooge doesn’t twig that they are talking about him. It isn’t until he is taken to a churchyard and confronted with his own headstone – “No, Spirit! Oh no, no!” – that he sees the true situation.
It’s strange to think about, if Dickens had never written the story, what wouldn’t exist in our Christmas season. There would be no Scrooge and Tiny Tim, not to mention “Bah Humbug”. The story even is credited with giving the greeting “Merry Christmas” a boost. It seems that Dickens liked to write about funerals (and left strict instructions for his own) almost as much as he liked to micro-manage and promote his own idea of Christmas. And in this story, he managed to do both.
Some of his other Christmas writings, for there is no shortage, are positively domestic goddess-esque. Take “A Christmas Dinner” in Sketches by Boz. The entire thing is disturbingly modern. Oh, not the details. They are very Victorian and fascinating for it. I like, in particular, this nugget: “Grandpappa always will toddle down, all the way to Newgate-market, to buy the turkey, which he engages a porter to bring home behind him in triumph, always insisting on the man’s being rewarded with a glass of spirits, over and above his hire, to drink A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”.
What is modern about this story it is the sheer relentless good cheer of it all. For Dickens, Christmas isn’t Christmas without lashings of enforced fun, merriment, kind-heartedness and benevolence. There is much wine, not to mention turkey and plum pudding, and not so much church. Dickens wants it all to be unremittingly jolly. The whole scene, with a little updating – there isn’t much prosecco in Dickens after all – could be 2013.
I must admit that I prefer A Christmas Carol with its graveyards though it, too, has its share of parties (Mr Fezziwig would have it no other way). But whichever seasonal Dickens is your favourite, it’s hard to avoid the man at this time of year. He’s everywhere, which is just the way he wanted it.
Ann Treneman’s fantastic book, Finding The Plot: 100 Graves To Visit Before You Die, is our Advent deal of the day! Get your copy for just £7.50 now.
By John Nickson , Fri 6th Dec 2013
By John Nickson, author of Giving is Good For You: Why Britain Should Be Bothered and Give More
“Christmas means ITV” was a self -promotional puff I recall from television in the nineteen seventies that prompts a more important question: is CHRISTMAS good for us? Christmas may be good for publishers but is a hellish time for most people I know. I agree with Tolstoy who might have said: “All happy family Christmases resemble one another, every unhappy family Christmas is unhappy after its own fashion.”
I am not a puritan. Although I am an atheist and my childhood was unhappy, I have a celebratory temperament that rejoices in good food, wine and, in particular, music. I have to confess to believing that God does have all the best tunes. Wherever I am, I have to go inside a church.
I am, however, repelled by the ghastliness of Christmas, the banal advertising and all the tat we have to endure for weeks before Christmas Day with its unwanted presents and legacy of boredom, dyspepsia and fat. But worst of all, is the conversion of Christmas into a festival of consumerism, encouraging a belief that, apart from birthdays, giving is something you do only at Christmas.
By not giving regularly, we are denying ourselves. Giving really is good for us and can be fun. Giving is what we are supposed to do. We are naturally selfish but altruism has also given us an evolutionary advantage. Just as the need to eat and have sex are rewarded with pleasurable feelings, so giving makes us feel good. We are social animals who thrive when we collaborate and care for each other. We started being philanthropic long before Christmas was invented. In the foreword to my book, Robert Winston says that the remains of pre-hominids living in France 700,000 years ago suggest that they chewed food for those who had lost their teeth and who would otherwise have starved.
After thirty years as a professional fundraiser, donor and charity trustee, I believe that humanity is in danger of losing the plot. In the nineteenth century, when the Victorians invented the modern Christmas, most of us in all classes were philanthropic. There was, of course, no welfare state and I have no wish to go back to a Dickensian time when people were born and died on the streets. However, we have lost as well as gained since then and what we seem to be losing is commitment to those we don’t know.
There has been a colossal increase in personal wealth in the last thirty years with the largest share of national income going to the richest 10%. Inequality is growing and is proved to lead to more dysfunctional, violent and unhealthy societies at great cost to us all, including the rich. Meanwhile, almost half of us give nothing to charity and the richest give proportionately less than the poor. Despite unprecedented personal wealth in Britain, charitable giving fell by up to 20% between 2011 and 2012.
I decided to write a book to encourage the mean to follow the example of the generous. I was encouraged to do so by some of Britain’s most generous benefactors . So it was that I approached Biteback Publishing in the summer of 2012, full of passion and moral fervor. Sam Carter, commissioning editor, invited me to talk at him for ten minutes and after due consultation with his colleagues, I was invited to write Giving Is Good For You. The stark question I had to ask myself was this: was I correct in my belief that giving is not only good for us but that the motivation to give is deep rooted in the human psyche and that by giving we can redeem ourselves and transform our lives? By wishing to follow the example of Richard Wagner, whose operas are obsessed with redemption, was I biting off more than I could chew?
I decided to go on the road to find out. I needn’t have worried. I talked to nearly 80 benefactors and those who work for charities and was overwhelmed by the response. I haven’t quite managed to match Wagner’s achievement but those I interviewed were truly inspirational, the heroes and heroines of our age because they refuse to be daunted by the scale of the problems facing us. They are determined to seek solutions by supporting the most vulnerable, the homeless, the young unemployed, those denied human rights, enabling the most disadvantaged to enjoy high quality education, pioneering medical research as well as investing in higher education and the arts for the benefit of us all.
Everyone I met told me that giving has transformed their lives, whether they were funding a refuge and re-education for sex workers in Newcastle, giving a million year to support the young unemployed in Yorkshire or funding research into poverty and what could improve the lives of slum dwellers in Bangladesh.
I also learned that philanthropy is for everyone, including the old woman who sticks a pound coin onto a piece of cardboard every month and sends it to The Passage, a charity for the homeless in Westminster.
I can be shameless about promoting my book because I am giving my royalties away. If you are looking for a book that could change your life, please read Giving Is Good For You. Even better, send a copy to anyone you who know who is rich and uncharitable. One of the interviewees in my book knows Boris Johnson who has recently championed greed and envy. She is sending him a copy for Christmas so that he can find out how little the very rich give and what those who do give think of those who do not give. He may be surprised. And so might you.
Happy New Year!
By Sam Deacon, Tue 3rd Dec 2013
Geoffrey Robertson QC speaking at Monday’s press conference
Yesterday saw the release of Geoffrey Robertson QC’s controversial new book Stephen Ward is Innocent, OK. In it Geoffrey highlights the unjust nature of Stephen Ward’s trial – the notorious scandal which brought down the Conservative Government. With a tenacious style and clear emotion Geoffrey brings to light the true injustice of the case, labelling Stephen as a scapegoat for those in power. It would appear that there were members of the judiciary that actively sought to conceal influential evidence that may implicate high profile members of the Establishment, members that remain – to this day – concealed in the shadows, in the wake of Profumo affair.
Gathered before members of the press, Geoffrey Robertson QC simply, yet eloquently, spoke of the judicial misconduct which led to Stephen Ward’s conviction and consequently his suicide, bringing to light the irregularities which encumbered Stephen’s defence. The focus of Geoffrey’s discussion was the establishment’s continued refusal to release important transcripts relating to the Stephen Ward case from the public archives. When the National Archive was challenged as to the reason for this they stated that the transcripts contained unsubstantiated claims of prostitution as well as details of the sexual life of named individuals.
However, were these documents to be released it is highly likely that they would prove crucial to procuring the ultimate overturning of Stephen’s conviction. With the help of high profile members of the community such as Lord Jeremy Hutchinson, Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber, and Mandy Rice-Davies – a personality that lies at the heart of the controversy surrounding the case – Geoffrey put forward the need for Stephen’s conviction to be overturned, clearing his name and finally undoing the wrong that was done. To read Geoffrey Robertson QC’s case in full, get your copy of Stephen Ward was Innocent, OK now.
Those that fought, & those that are still fighting, for justice. (Left to right: Anthony Burton, Lord Jeremy Hutchinson, Geoffrey Robertson QC, Mandy Rice- Davies, Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber).
By Sarah Thrift, Fri 29th Nov 2013
Struggling for stocking fillers? Looking for a Secret Santa to suit anyone? We’ve got just the thing.
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By Sarah Thrift, Fri 22nd Nov 2013
November 22nd, 1963.
One can only imagine how Oswald felt on the morning of Friday, 22 November. He would have forced himself into a state of grim determination. He had to succeed; whether he was doing it for himself, or because he was under orders with dire consequences for failure and rich rewards for success.
The motorcade swung left into Elm Street at 12.30. Oswald then raised the rifle and fired three shots, the third shattering the President’s skull. He put the rifle back behind some boxes, walked quickly down the stairs, and left the building seconds before the police sealed it off.
After collecting his passport and a few other things from his lodgings, a bus took him a mile further away from the scene of the crime. He started to walk towards a cinema, which may have been a rendezvous point. Was he going to meet someone who would assist his escape to a safe place? That is what they would have told him; but he was too naïve to realise he could not be allowed to live to tell the tale.
Officer JD Tippit of the Dallas Police was on a routine patrol when he saw Oswald walking purposefully along the road. On seeing the police car Oswald hesitated, half turned as if to run away, but then – remembering to keep calm – he continued to walk in the same direction as before. The hesitation had been enough to make Tippit suspicious, so he approached Oswald with a view to satisfying himself that he was not up to something sinister.
Oswald panicked, drew his revolver, and shot officer Tippit dead.
He ran on to the cinema; but there had been witnesses to the shooting and the police soon arrived and overpowered Oswald. He was taken to Dallas jail where he was charged with the murder of Officer Tippit. Within half-an-hour of his arrest he was also suspected of murdering Kennedy. He was questioned for several hours with no lawyer present and no notes were taken.
Two days later, Oswald was shot dead by Jack Ruby when he was being transferred from the city jail to the county jail.
The evidence strongly suggests that Oswald’s time in New Orleans and, more particularly, his visits to the Soviet Consulate in Mexico City, were directed by the KGB. Oswald had been invited, or instructed, to go to the Consulate where he was briefed by Kostikov (the KGB assassin expert), Yatskov and Nechiporenko. From Mexico, he went straight to Dallas, where he had no home and to where the President would be paying a visit. His job at the Depository was fortuitous, but alternative arrangements would otherwise have been made to shoot from somewhere else along the President’s route.
Khrushchev would not, under any conceivable circumstances, have authorised or condoned the assassination of President Kennedy with whom he had been fostering a better relationship since the Cuban Crisis.
However, Ivan Serov was not part of the inner circle of Soviet leadership. He had lost his position as head of the GRU and no longer took orders directly from Khrushchev, the Politburo or the Central Committee.
In the course of the social meetings he would have had with his friends and fellow-Stalinists Andropov and Kryuchkov in the summer of 1963, Serov may well have raised the possibility of taking revenge on Kennedy for – as all Stalinists saw it – the Soviet Union’s humiliation over the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Did the idea develop into a plan that Andropov and Kryuchkov could put into action from their positions in the Central Committee? We know that Kryuchkov had already been active in relation to Oswald’s future after he returned to the United States. They would have identified the Soviet Consulate in Mexico City as the best place to operate from and it had the added attraction of not involving any of the KGB stations in the United States.
These three militant Stalinists had stronger motivation, better opportunity and greater resources to kill Kennedy than anyone else in the conspiracy line-up. As steadfast Stalinists they were dedicated to the elimination of all ‘enemies of the people’ and Kennedy – the brash representative of the United States and capitalism – was public enemy number one.
For a more detailed consideration of the KGB links to the Kennedy assassination read A Spy Like No Other – The Cuban Missile Crisis, The KGB and The Kennedy Assassination by Robert Holmes.
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By Sarah Thrift, Fri 22nd Nov 2013
Jack, Jack, Jack!
Can you hear me?
November 22, 1963
She would always remember the roses. Three times that day before they got to Dallas, she feigned delight as someone presented her with the yellow roses for which Texas was so famous. “Only in Dallas,” Jackie said, “I was given red roses. How funny, I thought—red roses for me.” Soon, the backseat of their car would be strewn with blood-soaked rose petals—a surreal image she would never be able to erase from her mind. But for now, as they basked in the noonday sunlight and cheers from the crowds that lined the streets, Jack and Jackie seemed happier— and closer—than they had ever been.
The forty-six-year-old president and his thirty-four-year-old first lady exchanged one final glance. And then, in an instant, it all ended.
The look on Jack’s still-boyish face the moment the first bullet struck him in the back of the neck, severing his windpipe and exiting his throat, would haunt Jackie’s dreams for the rest of her life. “He looked puzzled,” she later said. “I remember he looked as if he just had a slight headache.”
For a split second, Jackie thought the crack she had heard was the sound of a motorcycle backfiring—until she realized she was watching, as if in slow motion, the president’s head begin to pull apart. “I could see a piece of his skull coming off,” she recalled. “It was flesh-colored, not white. I can see this perfectly clean piece detaching itself from his head. Then he slumped in my lap.”
Texas governor John Connally, riding in the jumpseat in front of the president, had also been seriously wounded. “Oh no, no, no,” he yelled, “they’re going to kill us all!” Connally’s wife, Nellie, who with her husband was now covered with blood and bits of brain matter from JFK’s head wound, looked back at the first lady. “I have his brains,” Jackie said as she sat staring for a full seven seconds, “in my hands!”
The driver of the presidential limousine floored the accelerator, and the “sensation of enormous speed” gave Jackie a sudden jolt of adrenaline. It also nearly dislodged Secret Service agent Clint Hill from his tenuous perch on the rear step; ever since the first shot rang out, Hill, who had been riding in the backup car, had sprinted to catch up. He finally reached the president’s Lincoln just as the third shot struck, spraying Hill as well with bits of bone and brain matter.
What Hill then witnessed along with a breathless nation was something Jackie herself would not remember. Numb with shock and panic, Jackie clambered onto the slippery trunk of the Lincoln. To many, it appeared that she was trying to reach out to Agent Hill and pull him onto the car. In fact, she was grasping for a large chunk of the president’s skull. Terrified that the first lady would now tumble off the back of the speeding vehicle, Hill pushed her back into her seat as the shard from JFK’s skull flew into the street.
With the 190-pound Hill now sprawled over her, trying to act as a human shield for both the president and the first lady, Jackie cradled her husband’s shattered head in her lap. She pressed down on the top with her white-gloved hands, she said later, “to keep the brains in.”
Jackie’s head was down, her face only inches from the president’s.
She was struck by the “pink-rose ridges” inside his broken skull, she later said, and the fact that despite everything, from the hairline down, “his head was so beautiful. I tried to hold the top of his head down, maybe I could keep it in . . . but I knew he was dead.” So did the crowds that lined the street. “He’s dead! He’s dead!” she could hear people shouting as the motorcade sped to Parkland Memorial Hospital.
Jackie clung to the slimmest hope that maybe there was life there still, a latent if quickly ebbing consciousness. “Jack, Jack, Jack, can you hear me?” she whispered over and over into his ear. The president’s blue eyes were wide open in a fixed stare. “I love you, Jack,” Jackie said. “I love you.”
To read on order your copy of These Few Precious Days – The final years of Jack with Jackie by Christopher Andersen today.
Over 40% off for a limited time only.
By Sarah Thrift, Fri 11th Oct 2013
The Paddy Power and Politicos.co.uk Political Books Awards 2014 is now accepting submissions.
What better way to follow Super Thursday than with some superb book news? The Paddy Power and Politicos.co.uk Political Book Awards 2014 is open for business. Last year’s event was a brilliant success, so readers, writers, publishers and politicians alike, will be pleased to hear that it is returning for a second year. The site is up and running, The Political Book Awards 2014, and we’re preparing for another fantastic spectacle.
Political Book of the Year
Debut Political Book of the Year
Political Biography of the Year
Polemic of the Year
Political History Book of the Year
International Affairs Book of the Year
Political Process Book of the Year
Political Humour and Satire Book of the Year in association with The InterContinental London, Westminster
Political Fiction Book of the Year
Lifetime Achievement Award in Political Literature
If you have any further queries about The Political Book Awards, please contact Katy Scholes at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 020 7091 1260.
By Sarah Thrift, Tue 8th Oct 2013
It’s almost super Thursday, so let’s see what Biteback has coming up in the publishing calendar!
Weirwolf: My Story by David Weir #Weirwolf
What is it? The fantastic, compelling account of Paralympian hero, David Weir.
Who is it for? Anyone who wants to relive the inspirational events of London 2012. Absolutely everyone.
Our survey says: “His is a truly inspirational story.” Seb Coe
Everybody’s Business: The Unlikely Story of How Big Business Can Fix the World by Jon Miller & Lucy Parker #EverybodysBusiness
What is it? An insightful exploration of the business world, revealing unexpected solutions to big problems.
Who is it for? Businessmen, businesswoman, and anyone wishing for future success.
Our survey says: “This is such an important theme. I’m 100% in agreement with this argument.” Dominic Barton, Managing Director – McKinsey & Company
Prisonomics: Behind bars in Britain’s failing prisons by Vicky Pryce #Prisonomics
What is it? A fascinating insight into Britain’s female prisons, from personal, political and economic perspectives.
Who is it for? Politicos, economists and women.
Our survey says: “A deeply impressive and powerful book.” Mark Leech, The Prisons Handbook
The Biteback Dictionary of Humorous Literary Quotations by Fred Metcalf #LitQuotes
What is it? The definitive collection of humourous literary quotations, from the established expert Fred Metcalf.
Who is it for? Keen readers & writers, anyone with a sense of humour.
By Sarah Thrift, Wed 2nd Oct 2013
We’ve seen jokes from Boris Johnson, tears for Michael Gove and rousing cries courtesy of David Cameron.
As responses to all of the aforementioned are being discussed, we’re taking some time out to remember a few of the great things that the Tories have said in the past. Iain Dale’s new book, The Dictionary of Conservative Quotations, has helped us do just that. An entertaining collection, useful for any right-leaning reader, and an essential companion for speech writers. It’s on special offer at the moment, so make the most of our generosity while you can.
Winston Churchill, 1930
“It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.”
Margaret Thatcher, 1975
“I sometimes think the Labour Party is like a pub where the mild is running out. If someone does not do something soon, all that is left will be bitter and all that is bitter will be left.”
William Hague, 1997
“We have no intention of stooping to a new politics without conscience. Let them stoop. We will conquer.”
David Cameron, 2012
“This party has a heart but we don’t like wearing it on our sleeve. Conservatives think: let’s just get on with the job and help people and not bang on about it. It’s not our style.”
Michael Gove, 2013
“Ed Miliband complaining about school spending is about as credible as Kim Kardashian complaining about invasion of privacy.”
And, of course, a joke from Boris:
Boris Johnson, 2004
“Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.”
By Sarah Thrift, Fri 27th Sep 2013
Hugo Rifkind, columnist and writer for The Times, The Spectator and GQ has written a brilliant book. My Week: The Secret Diaries of Almost Everyone is out now, and guaranteed to keep you entertained. To celebrate publication, and the fact that it’s Friday afternoon, we’re giving you a couple of snippets from Part 1: British Politics
Friday – Boris Johnson during an afternoon chat with the PM
Back into Downing Street to see Dave.
‘Time to stop dissing the Feds, old chap,’ I tell him, as we crack open a bottle of wine.
‘What?’ says Dave.
It’s Phoenician, I explain, and I tell him he should be nicer to the police. Then I show him a helmet I nicked off a community support officer when his back was turned and we reminisce about that time, with the Buller, when somebody threw a pot plant through a window.
‘Do you feel old?’ says Dave. ‘I feel old.’
‘You’ve got a pot plant on your desk,’ I say, and Dave looks scared for a moment, and then nods.
Then there’s a thud.
‘Bulletproof,’ says Dave.
‘I’ll get a broom,’ I say.
Friday – Ken Livingstone on the mayorial election and Boris Bikes
Still not answering my phone. But this morning, I run into him knocking on doors in Tower Hamlets.
‘I want a word with you,’ he says.
‘Bugger off,’ I say. ‘We’ve nothing to talk about. I’m taking back what’s mine. This city is mine. I’ll be turning Boris Bikes into Ken Bikes and sinking your stupid bloody buses into the Thames. You just see if I don’t.’
‘Never mind all that,’ says Boris. ‘Can I have the number of your accountant?’
Friday – Ed Miliband on David Leaving after losing the leadership vote
Finally, Ed has a window. He’s sad.
‘I don’t want you to go,’ he says.
I have to, I say. Otherwise people will just think I’m undermining you whenever I make a speech.
‘They might not,’ he says.
I’ll never be able to do a funny voice, I continue, or else people will think I’m mocking your funny voice.
‘Hold on,’ he says.
I’ll never be able to hold ridiculous reactionary policies that don’t make any sense, I say. I’ll never be able to make an announcement using the same lame catchphrase over
and over again. I’ll never even be able to walk around in a really stupid jerky fashion, or else people will think…
‘Need a lift to the airport?’ says Ed.
Friday – George Osborne on his vital role in government, and… trousers.
Dave, Oliver and Ken pop in, for a mid-morning cup of tea. Dave says I’m looking well.
Thanks, I say. I slept for two whole hours last night.
Hence the way my skin is now pale white, rather than its customary greyish green.
The PM says we have two big problems, and the main one is the newspapers.
‘All the stories are too hostile,’ agrees Ken. ‘You need to write them more nicely.’
I only write the Evening Standard, I tell them.
‘Oh,’ says Dave. ‘Well, the other problem is growth.’
There’s no easy solution, I say. People just need to work harder.
‘That’s rich coming from you,’ says Oliver. ‘When I’m not even wearing any trousers.’
I don’t want to do this anymore, I say.
‘Go on, then!’ says Ken. ‘Walk!’
‘Wait!’ says Dave. ‘Does anybody else know how to use the kettle?’
Ken says that’s a fair point. ‘Two sugars, George,’ he adds.
By Sarah Thrift, Mon 23rd Sep 2013
The Labour Conference is well underway and everyone is keeping a close eye on what the Reds are talking about. We’ve selected a handful of our favourite quotes from The Dictionary of Labour Quotations by Stuart Thomson to keep you informed and entertained.
Clement Attlee (1949)
‘I have none of the qualities which create publicity.’
Tony Blair (1997)
‘The children would love it if I had The Spice Girls around in the evening rather than John Prescott and Gordon Brown.’
Brian Clough (2004)
‘Of course I’m a Champagne Socialist. The difference between me and a good Tory is he keeps his money while I share mine.’
Harriet Harman (2007)
‘I am in the Labour Party because I am a feminist. I am in the Labour Party because I believe in equality.’
Gordon Brown (2009)
‘We are the Labour party and our abiding duty is to stand. And fight. And win. And serve.’
Ed Miliband (2010)
‘The new generation of Labour is different. Different attitudes, different ideas, different ways of doing politics.’
Ed Balls (2012)
‘The nature of politics, Dermot, is that the first minute or two really matters.’
In need of more Left inspiration? Buy The Dictionary of Labour Quotations. It’s on special offer now.
A keen Labour supporter? We’ve got plenty of books that might be of interest
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By Sarah Thrift, Thu 19th Sep 2013
Shirley Williams can easily be described as one of Britain’s best-loved politicians. Her charisma, intellect and empathy are appreciated by men and women across the political spectrum and beyond.
This week, Biteback published the definitive biography of a great woman. In the opening pages of ‘Shirley Williams: The Biography’ by Mark Peel, the author recalls his tentative enquiry in October 2000. Peel recalls asking Shirley ‘whether she would be at all interested in my writing her biography and, much to my delight, she consented.’ Lucky for us all that she did! Mark Peel, a renowned biographer, provides us with original, personal material about her relationship with her mother, Vera Brittain, and about Shirley’s relationships and marriages. The book also sheds important light on her political beginnings, and the developments throughout her extraordinary career. Intrigued?
Here’s a sneak peak from one of the early chapters.
Destined For Politics
Although Shirley departed quite happily for her first day at nursery school in September 1932, her extreme youth led to a rough baptism with her peers. ‘She is very easily roused if anything or anybody annoys her,’ commented her first report. ‘On these occasions she is inclined to become very negative towards everybody and this continues for some considerable time.’ It took the rest of the year for her to find her feet and become fully accepted. By her second year the runes appeared much more favourable. Her growing sociability, her interesting observations on the other children’s behaviour and her artistic creativity were all the subject of favourable comment. ‘One forgets that it is only this term that Shirley has been working with the older group of children. She is well adjusted and happy. She is developing rapidly.’ The only cloud on the horizon was the upset caused by the absence of her parents from home.
‘Has definite phases when she needs attention and approval of an adult. This seems often to correspond to the times when her mother is away’ was the verdict of her report in March 1934. Shirley’s demand for her mother’s attention began to prey on Vera. When taxed about her maternal neglect at the time and later she was sensitive to the charge, especially since she had disapproved of the way her mother’s generation had left their children to other people. She would later recall the heartbreak that the pain of separation from her children had caused her, never more so than during her three months in the US in 1934 when she would cry herself to sleep. Yet aside from ascribing her neglect to her perceived calling to make the world a better place (‘I had gifts, even more standards, to pass on’), Vera claimed, quite justifiably, that her input into her children’s upbringing was quite considerable. Not only did she take them for walks, enlightening them as to the different types of bird and flower, she also read to them after tea, and in John’s case taught him the piano, before putting them to bed. When they were ill she looked after them, employing her nursing experiences to good effect.
If the children continued to harbour regrets that they didn’t see more of their parents, they at least were fortunate in the range of surrogates to help ensure that both of them, especially Shirley, had happy childhoods. Entertainment in those early years often centred on Winifred Holtby, known to the children as Aunty Winifred. Tall, slim with golden hair, and invariably attired in a striking assortment of hats and dresses, she endeared herself to everyone by the radiance of her personality. ‘For my brother and me,’ Shirley later recounted, ‘Winifred was the source of unending pleasure: stories, games, wild fantasies, exotic visitors … Our favourite game was “elephants”. We would pile cushions high up on Winifred’s back, and issue orders from our rickety howdah as she crawled carefully across the floor.
As Mark Peel notes in the introduction ‘Her genuine friendliness and capacity to relate to all types, so rare in a politician, led people into thinking they knew her.’ This book will certainly help readers to achieve that.
Buy your copy from Biteback. It’s cheaper from us than from any other retailer
A keen reader of biographies? We’ll have something to suit everyone on our website
By Sarah Thrift, Tue 17th Sep 2013
Janis Sharp spent ten years fighting her son’s extradition to America. Their cause captivated the media and the general public for a decade. Now the full story is finally available for all to see. A compelling, passionate, and touching read, Saving Gary McKinnon is guaranteed to entertain and enthrall readers in equal measure.
To celebrate publication day, we’re giving you an exclusive extract from this fantastic book. Enjoy!
Chapter 8: Snatched
More than three years had passed since Gary’s arrest in 2002, so we were sure it was going to be dropped. I mean, they couldn’t just decide to try to extradite him more than three years after his arrest, could they? Suddenly, on 7 June 2005 the phone rang: it was Gary.
‘Mum, I’ve been arrested.’
‘Oh no, Gary, no!’ I screamed. ‘Where are you?’
‘I’m in Brixton Prison.’
I could hear the fear in his voice.
‘What’s wrong, Janis, what’s happened?’ said Wilson anxiously.
My voice was breaking and I could hardly speak. I was trying to hold it together as absolute terror struck my heart.
‘Gary’s been arrested, he’s in Brixton Prison.’
Saying the words out loud made it worse somehow, as though an invisible veil shielding me had been ripped away, forcing me into a stark reality I wasn’t ready to face. It reminded me of when, months after my mum died, I had to fill out a form that involved writing down that my mum was ‘deceased’ and I couldn’t do it. I mean obviously I knew my mum was dead, but somehow having to write down that word was the most traumatic thing, as the finality of her death hit me and I was forced to accept the painful reality I thought I had faced but hadn’t. Actually saying the words ‘he’s in Brixton Prison’ tore through my heart. I couldn’t even voice the thought of the word ‘extradition’ as that would make it real and my mind couldn’t deal with it right now. I could hear Gary’s voice in the distance.
‘Two men jumped out of a car when I was walking along the road and asked if I was Gary McKinnon. When I said yes they arrested me and bundled me into a car. They said they were the extradition squad and brought me to Brixton Prison. The guards are taking me to court in the morning.’
Gary was trapped; I wanted him out. I wanted to run with him to safety but they had him, he wasn’t free anymore.
‘When the extradition squad stopped you, you should have said no you weren’t Gary McKinnon. Why didn’t you ring me? I could have done something!’ I screamed.
‘You couldn’t, Mum.’
‘Are you in a cell on your own?’
‘No, I’m with a Scottish man.’
‘What is he in prison for?’
Gary fell silent.
‘What is he in prison for, Gary?!’
‘He’s accused of murdering someone but I’ve told him my mum and dad are Scottish.’
‘Oh, that’s all right then.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I’m being sarcastic, Gary, ignore me. How did they know your address? Surely they should have contacted Karen, your solicitor, first and arranged for you to go into the police station instead of pouncing on you in the street and bundling you into a car?’
‘I’m sorry, Mum.’
‘It’s not your fault. How can they be allowed to arrest you three and a half years after the fact? How can they?!’
Wilson took the phone.
‘It’ll be OK, Gary. We’ll see you in court tomorrow and your lawyer will sort it out.’
‘Someone else wants the phone. I have to go in a minute.’
‘OK. Take care, Gary, we love you.’
‘Love you too.’
Keen to find out how this extraordinary battle was won? ‘Saving Gary Mckinnon’ is available cheaper than any other retailer from us here.
Watch Janis Sharp discuss the book on BBC Breakfast
Follow Janis Sharp on Twitter
Praise for Saving Gary McKinnon: A Mother’s Story:
“A remarkable story told by a remarkable woman.” Duncan Campbell, The Guardian
“This book is essential reading, not only as a political thriller and a personal story, but also as an eye-opener to the way our freedoms can be threatened. Bravo Janis!” Julie Christie
“A compelling read.” Trudie Styler
“[I]t is impossible not to be touched by her determination to convince the system to take notice of the little people who so often get lost in it. As Christie writes in the brief foreword: Bravo Janis!” Sian Griffiths, The Sunday Times
By Sarah Thrift, Fri 13th Sep 2013
The LibDem conference is fast approaching! And what better way to celebrate than with this definitive collection of the best things Liberals have ever said?
Duncan Brack’s fantastic new book, The Dictionary of Liberal Quotations, offers readers the chance to relive the highlights, humour & historic words of the world’s Liberal thinkers. It’s on special offer for the duration of the conference, so get your orders in quick.
Edmund Burke, 1768
‘It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.’
Nick Clegg, 2012
‘The freedom to be who you are. The opportunity to be who you could be. That, in essence, is the Liberal promise.’
Tim Farron, 2013
(on the Liberal Democrat’s ability to survive)
‘A bit like cockroaches after a nuclear war, just a bit less smelly, we are made of sterner stuff.’
George Bernard Shaw, 1903
‘Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.’
David Steel, 1976
‘The road I intend to travel may be a bumpy one, and I recognise the risk that in the course of it we may lose some of the passengers, but I don’t mind so long as we arrive at the end of it reasonably intact and ready to achieve our goals.’
Shirley Williams, 1999
‘Women bring fresh value to politics. Where they play a large part in shaping the culture of public life, as in Scandinavia, politics begin to change… Our voices should be heard. In a world wracked by violence and by poverty, we cannot abandon the struggle.’
In need of more Liberal inspiration? Buy The Dictionary of Liberal Quotations. It’s on special offer now.
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By Stewart Purvis, Thu 5th Sep 2013
Among the contenders must be submitting the first draft to the publisher and waiting, sometimes rather a long time, for any feedback. There’s waiting for the first review and later trying to work out if many people are ordering the book by analysing Amazon’s often opaque rankings.
I plead guilty to all of these but perhaps the moment I feared most, and experienced today (5th September 2013) – Biteback publication day of When Reporters Cross the Line – was coming face to face with somebody you have written about and haven’t met since the book was finished.
It happened this morning in the wonderfully swish but slightly Orwellian surroundings of the reception area of the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in London. I had been invited by the BBC World Service programme Newshour to discuss the book with Martin Bell. In my ‘Martin Bell’ chapter I praise the veteran award-winning correspondent for his journalism but am sceptical about his concept of ‘the journalism of attachment’ and whether it is consistent with the requirement for ‘due impartiality’ which Parliament has placed on British broadcasters.
Like many former foreign correspondents Martin has a long memory for those who may have crossed him in the past. As I saw him sitting in BBC reception waiting to record our discussion I did wonder if I was about to join that list. His first words ‘good morning boss’ were reassuringly polite but slightly misleading. I never was Martin’s boss, in fact I was once the editor-in-chief of his main rivals at ITN. But I knew that to the frontline reporters like Martin there was a generic class of ‘bosses’ and I had once undeniably been one of them.
So it was only when we started recording our discussion with BBC World Service presenter James Coomarasamy and Martin got his first chance on air to say what he really thought about what I said about him in the book that I could relax a little. He didn’t dispute any of the facts or opinions, instead he embraced the themes I’d addressed and developed his own thoughts on them. I was further reassured when James asked me questions that revealed that he’d actually read at least part of the book – not something that always happens on these occasions.
Afterwards Martin and I left ‘New BH’ looking forward to our next meeting – at the book’s launch party – and I began looking ahead to my next encounter with a ‘victim’. Frederick Forsyth, best known as a successful thriller writer but back in the 1960s a BBC foreign correspondent, has agreed to debate with me at the Frontline Club in London on 25th September. We’ll be talking about his days covering the Nigerian Civil War in Biafra, why the BBC pulled him out and demoted him and why he went back under his own steam and at his own risk to work alongside the Biafrans.
It is now many years since Forsyth and Bell were on the frontline but the fire in their belly about what they did, why they did it (and who did what to them) burns just as fiercely as it did then.
Book your tickets to see authors Stewart Purvis & Jeff Hulbert in discussion with Lindsey Hilsum & Frederick Forsyth, chaired by Stuart Hughes. The event starts at 7pm on the 25th September at the FrontLine Club.
Follow Stewart Purvis on Twitter
Join the discussion. Tweet about the book using #CrossTheLine
By Emma Hicks, Wed 21st Aug 2013
Fancy something a bit different to read this summer? Here at the Robson Press we’re all hooked on the unique biography of Britain’s first investigative journalist by W. Sydney Robinson. Muckraker: The Scandalous Life and Times of W. T. Stead offers a fascinating insight into the eccentric man who pushed the boundaries in order to encourage reform in society. Consistently ruthless in his pursuit of the truth, the limits of his investigations were almost non-existent. Undeniably the most prominent case was his attempt to unveil the brutal reality of child prostitution, which ended with Stead serving a prison sentence due to his abducting Eliza Armstrong, a thirteen-year-old girl. Yet the campaign was successful, with the age of consent being raised. With astounding clarity, W. Sydney Robinson presents this case, alongside many others, to create a captivating account of the father of investigative journalism.
Take a look at this extract from Chapter 7 – In The Dock for a glimpse into the turbulent life of W. T. Stead:
‘Bosh! … Prosecute me?’
W. T. S., interview in North Eastern News (July 1885)
Stead’s decision to expose the hypocrisy of elite society’s sentimental attitude towards childhood predictably invited a barrage of criticism. W. H. Smith, who was both a senior member of the Cabinet and the owner of Britain’s largest chain of newsagents, responded to the flood of complaints he received at the outset of the campaign by pulling the PMG from newsstands and compensating subscribers with copies of the St. James’s Gazette.
That paper – still under the direction of the PMG’s founding editor, Frederick Greenwood – was in the vanguard of a substantial cohort of publications that denounced Stead’s series as ‘the vilest parcel of obscenity that has ever been issued from the public press’. Even its famous contributor Lewis Carroll denounced Stead for polluting the minds of the innocent, invoking (apparently without irony) the words Jesus had used to denounce those who tempted the ‘little ones’ into sin: Stead should be thrown into the sea with a ‘millstone hung around his neck’.
“[A] remarkably timely and entertaining biography” The Times
“An excellent read, and a good insight into modern as well as Victorian journalism.” Mark Pack
“A lively and laconic biography.” London Review of Books
“This compelling debut biography brings the seedy underbelly of Victorian journalism and its dodgiest practitioner brilliantly to life… You couldn’t make it up.” Sally Morris, Daily Mail
“Every politician and journalist should slip a copy of this slim, brilliantly written volume by a new young author into their holiday luggage this summer.” Lord Lexden, The House Magazine
“Closely researched and briskly written, Robinson’s admirably thoughtful and economical biography it does an excellent job of explaining one of the most extraordinary individuals in journalistic history.” Sunday Times