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."
By Eleanor Cutler, Fri 28th Mar 2014
Oh the world of business, the tedious industry driving our little nation forward in a world built on economics and finance. There’s little humour to be found in a job built on a foundation of stock markets, Excel spreadsheets, and taxes. Biteback’s got your back though, with the release of our hilarious book The Dictionary of Humorous Business Quotations to amuse you from nine to five. Along with a cup of black coffee (sadly not included) it’s all you need to get you through the working day.
“Monday is a lame way to spend one-seventh of your life.”
“We’re a non-profit-making organisation. We don’t mean to be but we are.”
Jerry Dennis, British comedian.
“I miss being able to slam my phone down when I hang up on somebody. Violently pressing ‘end call’ just doesn’t do it for me.”
“Show me a man who doesn’t make mistakes and I’ll show you a man who doesn’t do anything.”
Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States 1901–09.
“2640K ought to be enough for anyone.”
“I don’t want money. It is only people who pay their bills who want that, and I never pay mine.”
Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright.
“If my calculations are correct, I can retire about five years after I die.”
“Nothing interferes with my concentration. You could put on an orgy in my office and I wouldn’t look up. Well, maybe once.”
Isaac Asimov, academic and science fiction author.
“It’s amazing how many people beat you at golf now you’re no longer president.”
George H. W. Bush, President of the United States 1989–93.
So, if you need to survive the upcoming tedium of statistics, pie-charts and poorly made PowerPoint slides get your copy of The Dictionary of Humorous Business Quotations by Fred Metcalf today! Available cheaper here than from any other retailer.
By Sarah Thrift, Fri 14th Mar 2014
From Behind The Mask is an inspiring personal account of Pam Warren’s extraordinary life, before and after The Paddington Rail Crash.
She was not expected to survive. She became the lady in the mask.
In October 1999, Pam Warren’s life was turned on its head when she sustained horrific injuries in the Paddington rail crash. The casualties numbered thirty-one dead and over five hundred injured. Pam underwent scores of operations to rebuild her burnt body, and had to wear a plastic mask over her face for twenty-three hours a day over an eighteen-month period. Unwittingly, she became the public face of the disaster.
Over a decade on from that terrible event, From Behind the Mask charts the true inside story of Pam’s journey from victim to survivor and campaigner. Following the crash she became the UK’s leading spokesperson for improving rail safety, battling with rail management executives and the government – and winning. She was branded a troublemaker, but Pam and fellow members of the Paddington Survivors’ Group helped bring about great improvements on our railways. For years Pam remained focused on that campaign. Now, for the first time, she can tell us all what really happened. It is an inspirational story of determination and courage.
We’ve got five signed copies of Pam’s brilliant book to give away. To enter, simply send an email with your name and address, and answer to the question below here We will not pass on your personal details to any third party.
After The Paddington Rail Crash on October 5th 1999 Pam Warren set up a support group for those who had survived the ordeal. What was the group called?
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By Jad Adams, Fri 14th Mar 2014
Jad Adams, Tony Benn’s biographer who knew him well for the last 25 years of his life, said:
‘Tony Benn was a public figure for more than 60 years, only the Queen has a longer record.
‘He deserves respect for the sheer endurance of his chivalrous, witty combat in the service of his beliefs. He outlived almost all of his critics to emerge as the embodiment of opposition to arbitrary authority; still a commanding presence on stage and at the microphone, well into his 80s.
‘He represented a peculiarly English form of democratic socialism that he was always pleased to refer back to the Peasants’ Revolt or factions in the English Civil War. It was more rooted in his family’s Christianity than Marxism and owed little or nothing to foreign political ideas.
‘His lasting achievements were in the reform of the constitution and the extension of democracy.
‘He successfully campaigned for the Peerage Act which allowed hereditary peers to renounce the title. In doing that he dealt a fatal blow to the hereditary principle: he proved there was no magic in aristocratic blood, a peer was just a recipient of privilege. It could be given back at any time. The House of Lords was never the same again.
‘He was alone in proposing a referendum on continued membership of the Common Market in the 1970s, in time it became a great national campaign over what was to be the EU.
‘As a minister he was practical and efficient, modernising the post office as postmaster general and ensuring Britain had a share of the wealth produced from North Sea oil as Secretary of State for Energy.
‘In retirement he resurrected the public meeting as a forum for political debate virtually single-handedly in his national series of talks An Evening with Tony Benn.
‘His nine volumes of diaries from 1940 are one of the great records of political and family life and will survive for historians of the future for as long as our era has an interest for them.
‘I remember his generosity and kindness to me and to others who came to his office. One of his great qualities was as a leveller of people. His affability and genuine curiosity about people made him accessible to all, much loved by different ages and classes.
‘Most importantly, for his reputation as a statesman standing head and shoulders above his critics, he responded with mental agility and humour to decades of assaults and came through more popular than ever. He will be missed as few other politicians will be.’
By Sarah Thrift, Tue 11th Mar 2014
Commissioning Editor – Biteback Publishing
A vacancy has arisen within our small, dynamic publishing team for a Commissioning Editor.
This is a unique opportunity to work on and develop a burgeoning non-fiction list, specialising in politics, current affairs, history, biography and sport.
The successful applicant will work within a busy editorial team to deliver books from conception through to print, including editing, liaising on cover design and picture research, and dealing with proof corrections. He or she will have excellent editorial skills as well as proven experience with InDesign or InCopy, and will liaise closely with other departments on sales, publicity and budgeting matters.
The ideal candidate will have a strong interest in current affairs and a proven editorial background in non-fiction publishing. He or she will have strong negotiating skills, an existing list of contacts within the publishing world, and a proven ability to develop and maintain good author and agent relationships.
This is a brilliant opportunity for a creative individual with an interest in some of the most exciting and agenda-setting non-fiction being published in the UK today.
The position can be full- or part-time depending on the candidate.
Please apply with a CV, covering letter and current salary to: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Sarah Thrift, Tue 11th Mar 2014
Publishing Assistant – Biteback Publishing
A vacancy has arisen within our busy editorial team for a Publishing Assistant. The successful candidate will work on the entire book production process from receipt of manuscript to delivery of files to printer.
This is a wide-ranging job within a small, dynamic publishing team. The successful candidate’s tasks will include the editorial clean-up of manuscripts, line-editing, fact-checking, proofreading, taking in proof corrections using Adobe InCopy or InDesign, preprint checks on PDFs, use of OCR software, management of paperbacks, writing blurbs and picture research.
Other roles will include checking eBooks, liaising with authors, freelancers, picture libraries, agents and foreign publishers.
The successful candidate will have a demonstrable excellence in grammar and spelling, excellence in proofreading and familiarity with BSI proofreading marks. He or she will also show an awareness of current affairs, an attention to detail and an ability to work under pressure.
Please apply with a CV, covering letter and current salary to: email@example.com
By Sarah Thrift, Tue 11th Mar 2014
Designer and Typesetter – Biteback Publishing
Biteback Publishing is a leading independent non-fiction publisher specialising in politics and current affairs. A position has arisen within our busy editorial team for a designer and typesetter. The successful candidate will be responsible for designing book jackets, typesetting manuscripts, compiling plate sections and designing marketing and media material when required.
The candidate will be a creative and highly organised individual, able to manage multiple projects from concept brief to artwork production, sometimes juggling a heavy workload and working to deadlines, while maintaining a high quality of design. As part of a small, dynamic team, you will need to be adaptable as well as a good communicator
The ideal candidate will have two to three years’ design experience in a book publishing environment. You must be a fluent user of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and experience with photography and typography is essential.
Please apply with a CV, covering letter and work samples (or a link to an online portfolio) to: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Sarah Thrift, Tue 4th Mar 2014
From Behind The Mask, the extraordinary memoir written by Paddington Rail Crash survivor Pam Warren is out today.
Here’s an exclusive extract from Chapter 9: Home, The Psychologist And The Survivors’ Group
The first meeting of the survivors was held at the Posthouse Hotel in Swindon on 8 April 2000. I arrived early with Peter and Jane to look over the function room I’d hired,
having no idea how many people might turn up, what their attitude would be or what we were going to do or say. All I knew was that it felt like a positive step to be taking.
Just before 11 a.m. the first people arrived, wandering into the room quietly; there was no animation, no chit-chat, no normal first-meeting enquiries. I look back now and realise we probably all looked very grey, subdued and even haunted. As a few more came into the room I tried to smile and put them at ease, though I’m sure my appearance didn’t help matters with my face distorted by sores and my skin grafts grotesquely displayed through my plastic mask. Not to be perturbed I continued my role as hostess: ‘Tea, coffee, water?’ I asked. ‘There are nibbles at the back of the room.’
I must have said, ‘Hello, I’m Pam Warren’ two dozen times. ‘Hello, I’m Pam Warren. Nice to meet you. Thank you for coming,’ which was playing havoc with my vocal cords as they
tired very quickly. I followed each introduction with a nervous laugh and an explanation as to why I couldn’t shake their hands, quickly waving my own, encased in the black pressure-garment gloves to demonstrate the point. I can’t recall exactly how many there were, but I think about fifty-odd people. We arranged the chairs in the room into a semi-circle facing a table at the top of the room and sat down, just looking at each other, until I forced myself up and said, ‘Well, thank you all for coming. I don’t know what to do now … erm … I suppose one of the things we ought to do is talk about what happened?’
There was a deafening silence, and my nervousness and uncertainty grew by the second, until someone asked, ‘Do you remember the smell? That awful smell after the crash?’
It was as though a giant ‘on’ switch had been flicked, as everyone suddenly started talking. ‘What train were you on?’ … ‘Where were you?’ … ‘Which carriage were you in?’ … ‘Do you remember this?’ … ‘Do you remember that?’
We all left our chairs, moved towards each other and broke off into little groups, all talking, all very animated, with gestures, hand movements, a few quiet tears and even some smiles. I moved between the huddles of people, listening and chipping in. Nobody had to explain anything – the mere mention of diesel, or the fireball, or the wreckage was enough. Everyone knew what it meant, looked and felt like – we had all shared in it first-hand and now seemed to have a tangible bond that needed no verbal explanations. The meeting ran for the rest of the morning and into the afternoon. I had only booked the room for a couple of hours but the Posthouse staff were brilliant and understood what was taking place. However, I don’t think any of the people assembled noticed the time, we were just so enthused.
I came away feeling an overwhelming sense of relief. There were people there who completely and utterly understood, and there were so many of us – none of us were alone.
Having called the meeting to some sort of order, we all agreed to meet again. It was at this point that someone suggested we form a group – my blood ran cold as I remembered the STAG meeting. ‘What sort of group?’ I queried.
‘A support group,’ one of the others responded.
‘Somewhere we can get together and chat, exchange ideas, pass on experiences,’ another replied.
‘Where we can help each other,’ came another.
I relaxed and my blood flowed again. Although we had a mixture of ideas, we all wanted to be an emotional support for each other. I don’t believe campaigning was even mentioned at this time, simply that questions needed to be posed to the rail industry – to Railtrack – regarding their safety record. One or two of us were to go away and look into the Clapham rail disaster report and the findings of the Southall rail crash. It was early days for the internet, but the HSE and Railtrack preliminary reports into Paddington were already available online. For anyone taking the time and trouble to root around, to talk to survivors of the crash with significant experience of railways, there was plenty of information to be gleaned. We were about to become rail industry experts in a very short period of time. ‘OK,’ I said, ‘but this has to be done on a bit of a proper footing, otherwise our meetings might drag on for hours. Can we agree that whatever happens we are a democratic group so everyone has an equal say?’ Everyone agreed.
I mentioned that I absolutely loathed committees (which I still do), but felt we needed to appoint someone to arrange the meetings and be a sort of coordinator. As the words left my lips I sensed all eyes were on me, though with friendly smiles, swiftly followed by fingers pointing at me. I had no choice but to agree. As for what we might call our meetings? We decided on ‘The Paddington Survivors’ Group’.
Buy your copy of From Behind The Mask today. It’s available cheaper than any other retailer here
To find out more visit Pam Warren’s website
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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, Thu 30th Jan 2014
Yesterday saw the launch of Ad & Wal – Values, Duty, Sacrifice in Apartheid South Africa by Peter Hain at South Africa House. This book gives an extraordinary account of an ordinary couple, Peter’s parents, Adelaide and Walter, and their struggle against the apartheid regime.
Peter Hain made time to sign books for all attendees before giving a brilliant introduction to the main event: Jon Snow’s interview with Ad and Wal. To a rapt audience, Ad and Wal talked about their fondness for one another which has lasted for almost 70 years. Jon asked them about the inevitable difficulties that arose from being banned, and the impact it had on both their personal and political lives. In a lively addition to the interview, Jon reflected on his own political activism involving a trip to Old Trafford with Peter Hain and other fellow university students as part of the anti-apartheid sport protests of the 1970s. A police scuffle, an arrest, and some impressive mathematical deductions ensued.
When asked to reflect on what they missed most about South Africa after their exile, Wal quickly responded with ‘the weather’ then ‘the people, our friends and family’ before adding ‘the weather really was the main thing though’ with an amused chuckle. After the interview Ad and Wal were delighted to sign copies of the book and posed for photographs with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
If you’d like to read the fantastic story of Peter’s parents, purchase your copy of Ad and Wal today.
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 Biteback Publishing, Mon 20th Jan 2014
Over the weekend we heard the tragic news that one of Biteback’s authors, Dr Alexandros Petersen, had been a victim of a bomb blast that took the lives of 14 people in Kabul last week. Dr Petersen was working on a biography of the Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili due to be published by Biteback this August on the anniversary of the Russia-Georgia war of 2008. He had secured John McCain to write a foreword and was proceeding well with the book along with his co-author Richard Cashman.
As we understand it, Alexandros had just started a new job as a professor at the American University in Kabul. He was an incredibly talented student of international politics and geo-strategy, as THIS BLOGPOST, written only a week ago, demonstrates. You find out more about Alexandros on his website HERE.
A young life has been cut tragically short by the actions of Taliban terrorists. All of us at Biteback send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
By John Nickson, Thu 12th 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 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.
25% off for a limited time only.
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