Why I Wrote Betrayed

By Richard Scorer, Wed 9th Apr 2014

Betrayed : The English Catholic Church and the sex abuse crisis by Richard Scorer is out now. Richard Scorer, an expert in the field, explains why this book had to be written:

“I have written this book in tribute to those many survivors of abuse brave enough to come forward and tell their stories and others who may yet do so. It is a matter of public interest that the tragic events of the last few decades are more fully understood, the better to prevent repetition in the future.

In 1983, Gilbert Gauthe, a priest in Lafayette, Louisiana, was exposed as a paedophile. The case set in motion events which have devastated the Catholic Church across the world. In 1985, Gauthe’s defence attorney, Ray Mouton, and a Vatican official, Tom Doyle, wrote a 92-page report in which they pleaded with the US Church to confront the issue of sexual abuse.

The report went to senior Catholic leaders. It was ignored, then buried. The scandal which has since unfolded in the USA and internationally has been much vaster, its impact on the Church and its congregations far more profound, than Mouton and Doyle predicted. Across the Catholic world, victims have been traumatised, parishes left broken and respect for the priesthood has been shattered. The scandal is still unfolding and is likely to continue for many years hence.

In England, the societal impact of the scandal has been less profound, leading some to play down its seriousness; in his anti-papal polemic The Case of the Pope, Geoffrey Robertson QC suggests that ‘insofar as the church has had a success story in dealing with paedophile priests, this is in the UK’. Robertson is no apologist for the Church, but his view reflects a common assumption, fostered by Catholic leaders, that there were relatively few cases in England and that such problems as existed have been eliminated by the Nolan reforms, a raft of changes to child protection in the Catholic Church in England and Wales which were introduced in 2001.

The statistics and historical records, however, indicate otherwise. In writing this book I have established that at least sixty-one Catholic priests have been convicted of sexual offences in the criminal courts in England and Wales since 1990. That is a minimum number; there may be more. In this book, which is intended to be both a history of the Catholic abuse scandal in England and Wales over the last thirty years and an analysis of Catholic safeguarding as it now operates, I examine the detail of some of these cases. Many, if not most, are ‘historic’ but some, like the recent scandals at Benedictine schools, are contemporary and post-date the Nolan reforms. They illustrate that whilst Nolan has undoubtedly improved child protection in the English Church, that task is ‘very far from accomplished’. The Church now seems to be better at reporting abuse allegations to the statutory authorities. But there remains what one inquiry report called a ‘backsliding tendency’. And there are other continuing problems too: a failure to laicise (defrock ) priests convicted of sexual offences, and a failure to support and pay just compensation to survivors.

As the cases examined in this book will show, at least until the 1990s, and in many instances much later, allegations of abuse were suppressed in ways which could never have happened if the leadership of the Church had believed itself to be accountable to its congregations, to the law and to wider society. Whilst the Church has woken up to some of these problems, many of the underlying dynamics which gave rise to the abuse crisis remain in place. Those dynamics will only change if the Church remains under the spotlight. In writing this book I hope to help ensure that the Sins of the Fathers are not visited on a new generation."

Betrayed : The English Catholic Church and the sex abuse crisis by Richard Scorer is available with our 2 week price promise now.

Betrayed

Why I Wrote Betrayed

By Richard Scorer, Wed 9th Apr 2014

Betrayed : The English Catholic Church and the sex abuse crisis by Richard Scorer is out now. Richard Scorer, an expert in the field, explains why this book had to be written:

“I have written this book in tribute to those many survivors of abuse brave enough to come forward and tell their stories and others who may yet do so. It is a matter of public interest that the tragic events of the last few decades are more fully understood, the better to prevent repetition in the future.

In 1983, Gilbert Gauthe, a priest in Lafayette, Louisiana, was exposed as a paedophile. The case set in motion events which have devastated the Catholic Church across the world. In 1985, Gauthe’s defence attorney, Ray Mouton, and a Vatican official, Tom Doyle, wrote a 92-page report in which they pleaded with the US Church to confront the issue of sexual abuse.

The report went to senior Catholic leaders. It was ignored, then buried. The scandal which has since unfolded in the USA and internationally has been much vaster, its impact on the Church and its congregations far more profound, than Mouton and Doyle predicted. Across the Catholic world, victims have been traumatised, parishes left broken and respect for the priesthood has been shattered. The scandal is still unfolding and is likely to continue for many years hence.

In England, the societal impact of the scandal has been less profound, leading some to play down its seriousness; in his anti-papal polemic The Case of the Pope, Geoffrey Robertson QC suggests that ‘insofar as the church has had a success story in dealing with paedophile priests, this is in the UK’. Robertson is no apologist for the Church, but his view reflects a common assumption, fostered by Catholic leaders, that there were relatively few cases in England and that such problems as existed have been eliminated by the Nolan reforms, a raft of changes to child protection in the Catholic Church in England and Wales which were introduced in 2001.

The statistics and historical records, however, indicate otherwise. In writing this book I have established that at least sixty-one Catholic priests have been convicted of sexual offences in the criminal courts in England and Wales since 1990. That is a minimum number; there may be more. In this book, which is intended to be both a history of the Catholic abuse scandal in England and Wales over the last thirty years and an analysis of Catholic safeguarding as it now operates, I examine the detail of some of these cases. Many, if not most, are ‘historic’ but some, like the recent scandals at Benedictine schools, are contemporary and post-date the Nolan reforms. They illustrate that whilst Nolan has undoubtedly improved child protection in the English Church, that task is ‘very far from accomplished’. The Church now seems to be better at reporting abuse allegations to the statutory authorities. But there remains what one inquiry report called a ‘backsliding tendency’. And there are other continuing problems too: a failure to laicise (defrock ) priests convicted of sexual offences, and a failure to support and pay just compensation to survivors.

As the cases examined in this book will show, at least until the 1990s, and in many instances much later, allegations of abuse were suppressed in ways which could never have happened if the leadership of the Church had believed itself to be accountable to its congregations, to the law and to wider society. Whilst the Church has woken up to some of these problems, many of the underlying dynamics which gave rise to the abuse crisis remain in place. Those dynamics will only change if the Church remains under the spotlight. In writing this book I hope to help ensure that the Sins of the Fathers are not visited on a new generation."

Betrayed : The English Catholic Church and the sex abuse crisis by Richard Scorer is available with our 2 week price promise now.

Betrayed

Political Book Awards winners announced

By Sarah Thrift, Wed 19th Mar 2014

Charles Moore wins Political Book of the Year. Lord Dobbs wins Lifetime Achievement Award.

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography by Charles Moore, published by Allen Lane, won the Political Book of the Year tonight at the Paddy Power Political Book Awards. The glittering ceremony, which was hosted by author and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth and held at the BFI IMAX, was attended by a select audience of authors, publishers and politicians. A cheque for £10,000 was donated and presented to the winning author by Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC. The book was up against fierce competition in a category which included This Boy by Alan Johnson (Bantam Press), Empire of the Deep by Ben Wilson (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), Power Trip by Damian McBride (Biteback Publishing) and Perilous Question by Antonia Fraser (Weidenfeld & Nicolson). However, in spite of all the impressive entrants on the shortlist, the judges for this category, Lord Ashcroft, Professor Mary Beard, Chris Bryant MP, Keith Simpson MP, broadcaster Carolyn Quinn, and journalist and author Peter Riddell, reached a unanimous decision when they met to choose the winner. Judge Mary Beard said of the winning book: ‘This is an elegant and sometimes witty book; it is the kind of authoritative study that people will be referring to for decades – or even longer.’

Simon Sebag Montefiore’s novel One Night in Winter (Century) won Political Fiction Book of the Year. The award was presented by Patrick Kennedy, CEO of headline award sponsor Paddy Power. He commented:

Paddy Power has always believed that politics is entertaining and a fantastic backdrop for story-telling. So I was delighted to present the award for political fiction to Simon Sebag Montefiore’s page-turner. The competition gets stronger every year and One Night in Winter is a worthy winner.

There was fierce competition for the Political Biography of the Year, which was sponsored by Total Politics. The shortlist included A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine by Tony Benn (Hutchinson), Disraeli by Douglas Hurd and Edward Young (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), Edmund Burke by Jesse Norman (William Collins), Strictly Ann by Ann Widdecombe (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) and Margaret Thatcher by Jonathan Aitken (Bloomsbury Continuum). The award was won by The Pike by Lucy Hughes-Hallett (Fourth Estate). The award was presented by Dame Ann Leslie.

The Debut Political Book of the Year was won by Iain Martin, author of Making It Happen (Simon & Schuster). Charles Clarke presented the winner with a cheque for £3,000, also donated by Lord Ashcroft.

Winner of the Political History Book of the Year, in association with News UK, was Richard Davenport-Hines for his book An English Affair (Harper Press). Victoria Newton, Editor of the Sun on Sunday, presented the award.

Damian Barr’s book Maggie & Me (Bloomsbury Publishing) won the Political Humour and Satire Book of the Year, which was sponsored by The InterContinental London Westminster. The award was presented by actress Stella Gonet, who plays Margaret Thatcher in the play Handbagged, a short excerpt of which was performed during the awards.

Former Dragon Hilary Devey presented the award for Polemic of the Year to Daniel Hannan for his book How We Invented Freedom and Why It Matters (Head of Zeus).

Practical Politics Book of the Year was won by Anthony King and Ivor Crewe for The Blunders of Our Governments (Oneworld Publications), which was presented by the Speaker, John Bercow.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, presented the award for International Affairs Book of the Year to Margaret MacMillan for her book The War That Ended Peace (Profile Books).

The award for Lifetime Achievement was presented to Lord Dobbs, former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party and bestselling author of the House of Cards trilogy, which has been made into a hit TV series both in the UK and, more recently, in the US, starring Kevin Spacey. Lord Dobbs is also well known for his series of Winston Churchill novels, Harry Jones thrillers and Tom Goodfellowe novels. The award was presented on screen by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Iain Dale, founder of the awards, said, ‘ These awards celebrate the fantastic breadth of political writing in the UK today, and I hope that they will encourage more people to both read and write political literature.’

View the shortlist in full


Chapman Pincher : Rocket Man

By Judith Long, Thu 20th Feb 2014

Chapman Pincher : Dangerous To Know

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.


Chapman Pincher : Dangerous To Know by Harry Chapman Pincher is out now. Get it cheaper from us than from any other retailer here


SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED FOR THE PADDY POWER POLITICAL BOOK AWARDS 2014

By Sarah Thrift, Tue 11th Feb 2014

Political Book Awards 2014

The Paddy Power Political Book Awards 2014 in association with politicos.co.uk are upon us!

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.

Visit www.politicalbookawards.com
Follow us: @PolBookAwards #PBAwards

For more information please contact suzanne.sangster@politicalbookawards.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 Logo

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.

Political Book Awards logos

Helen Suzman - The Biography

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


Helen Suzman : Bright Star in a Dark Chamber

Christmas At The Castle

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.


Anthony Russell’s fantastic book Outrageous Fortune – Growing Up at Leeds Castle, is our Advent deal of the day! Get your copy for just £11.99 now.


Why It Is Impossible to Escape from Dickens at Christmas

By Ann Treneman, Wed 18th Dec 2013

Ebenezer Scrooge

“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.”
Another laugh

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.
Finding The Plot


Is Giving Good For You At Christmas?

By John Nickson , Fri 6th Dec 2013

Giving Is Good For You

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!

(Giving is Good For You by John Nickson is on offer for just one day only as part of our Advent Calendar offers. Get your copy today, and don’t forget to make the most of our remaining 18 offers)


Giving Is Good For You by John Nickson

Stephen Ward Was Innocent, OK - The Press Conference

By Sam Deacon, Tue 3rd Dec 2013

Geoffrey Robertson QC speaking at Monday's press conference

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).

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).


Secret Santa Has Returned!

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.

Our Secret Santa sale has returned! Politicos are offering you 100+ fantastic titles, all for £4.99 and under. Time to start shopping!
Click here to see our Secret Santa selection


Secret Santa

Lee Harvey Oswald : An Extract From A Spy Like No Other

By Sarah Thrift, Fri 22nd Nov 2013

November 22nd, 1963.
Dallas, Texas


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 Conspiracy


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.
25% off for a limited time only.


Spy Like No Other

JFK 50: An Extract From These Few Precious Days

By Sarah Thrift, Fri 22nd Nov 2013

Jack, Jack, Jack!
Can you hear me?

Dallas
November 22, 1963
12:30 P.M.


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.


These Few Precious Days

The Paddy Power and Politicos.co.uk Political Books Awards 2014

By Sarah Thrift, Fri 11th Oct 2013

The Paddy Power and Politicos.co.uk Political Book Awards 2014

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.

We are now accepting submissions for all of our political prizes. For submission forms and further details, click here

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 katy.scholes@politicalbookawards.com or by calling 020 7091 1260.


Out In October

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 by David Weir

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

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 by Vicky Pryce

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

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.




And It's All Over For Another Year...

By Sarah Thrift, Wed 2nd Oct 2013

The Dictionary of Conservative Quotations by Iain Dale

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.”

Get your copy of The Dictionary of Conservative Quotations now.
Consider yourself a devoted Tory? Have you read any of these
Follow Iain Dale on Twitter


Friday Afternoon In Politics *according to Hugo Rifkind

By Sarah Thrift, Fri 27th Sep 2013

My Week*

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.

Get your copy of My Week now
Follow Hugo Rifkind on Twitter


What have Labour got to say?

By Sarah Thrift, Mon 23rd Sep 2013

The Dictionary of Labour Quotations by Stuart Thomson

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
Sign up to our newsletter to keep up-to-date with our great new releases, special offers and more
Follow Stuart Thomson on Twitter


Testament of (Shirley's) Youth

By Sarah Thrift, Thu 19th Sep 2013

Shirley Williams: The Biography

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


Snatched: An Extract From Saving Gary McKinnon

By Sarah Thrift, Tue 17th Sep 2013

Saving Gary McKinnon by Janis Sharp

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

Are you a fan of true-life stories? We’ve got plenty of biographies and autobiographies on the website.

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