Brought to Book: Jo Phillips

  • September 22, 2010 11:22
  • Katy Scholes

Stepping away from the world of trade unions, Jo Phillips reflects on seventeenth century diarists, fiesty tomboys and a slight bias towards West Ham fans...

What is your favourite book?
The Diaries of Samuel Pepys. My absolute, all time, if I only had one book, choice. There is something so utterly compelling about the intimacy of the ordinary yet it opens up seventeenth century London in a way that is so true and personal. In the midst of witnessing astonishing historical events, are the details of bad food, clothes, the weather and the daily life of London. A reminder of how long and hard it was to get anywhere, to write after dark by candlelight, to stay clean and yet there is an overwhelming joi de vivre which is infectious and uplifting. A couple of years ago, I was driving to Italy and the friend I was with had bought Pepys Diaries read by Kenneth Branagh - so utterly, utterly boring we gave up by the time we got to Dover. That's no reflection on the abilities of Mr Branagh but I think Pepys wrote a book to read, to keep by the bedside, keep in a travel bag but not to be read aloud.

As a child, what was your favourite book?
I am of the Enid Blyton generation and loved all the Famous Five, Mallory Towers and the rest. Adored Swallows and Amazons, Beatrix Potter, Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan and hated Grimm's Fairy Tales but for a while was completely hooked on the Jill books by Ruby Ferguson, all about ponies and gymkhanas. Childhood books fall into the categories of those that are read to you and those you read yourself and I think it's when you start reading yourself and lose yourself in a book that the magic sets in so it would have to be Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and I can remember reading that in bed right now. <!--more-->

What book would you take on holiday this year?
I haven't taken a holiday yet and am spending every spare minute creating a garden so my reading ranges from Geoff Hamilton and Beth Chatto to Getrude Jekyll and much in between. When I do go away later this year, I shall do my own Long List, consult friends and colleagues, and hope to end up with the best possible mix of Books You Should Read When You Have Time to Do It Properly.

Do you have a favourite political book/biography?
The Prime Minister: the office and its holders since 1945 by Peter Hennessy. Peter is a wonderful writer and a brilliant communicator because he is above all, an enthusiast for his subject and so he shares his enthusiasm and thus his knowledge generously. He's also a West Ham fan. I'm also a great admirer of Peter Oborne (also a West Ham fan) who is an elegant and thoughtful writer and I think everyone should read Why Politicians Lie.

Which book published in the last ten years do you think is the most significant?
Not just because he was once my boss but I think Paddy Ashdown's Diaries are significant and in time, will be seen as even more so. Paddy was meticulous about his diaries and is totally honest. His personal integrity and humanity shines through the diaries but for anyone interested in British politics, the Ashdown Diaries also shine a very probing light on our political system, Tony Blair and his coterie and the daily challenges of trying to be a decent politician. If, as the old saying goes, "the personal is political" then Paddy's Diaries manage to show why.

Which literary character would you most like to be?
Always wanted to be George in the Famous Five, Jo in Little Women - independent, slight tomboy, bit of a busybody so guess I'm heading towards Miss Marple with secatures in hand!

Jo Phillips is the co-author of Why Join a Trade Union?, which is available to buy from the Biteback website.

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Making the Difference: Essays in honour of Shirley Williams

  • September 21, 2010 13:50
  • Katy Scholes

"Prime Ministers apart (and not all of them), Shirley is possibly the best known politician in Britain . . . still engaged at eighty, witty, humane and determined." Andrew Duff

If you follow Biteback Publishing Events you may have had the chance yesterday to visit the Liberal Democrat Image stand at Conference where Shirley Williams could be found signing copies of new book Making the Difference.

Making the Difference: Essays in Honour of Shirley Williams has been edited by Andrew Duff and published by Biteback to celebrate the life and career of one of the most influential women in British politics.

To mark the occasion of Baroness Williams's eightieth birthday in 2010, Making the Difference comprises a collection of essays by her peers, contemporaries and protégés on the themes and issues she has campaigned on during the course of an inspirational career in politics spanning five decades.

Andrew Duff, has brought together an impressive group of contributors for this important book (including Peter Hennessey, Germaine Greer, Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell), demonstrating the esteem and affection felt for this remarkable politician.

Making the Difference demonstrates the influence Shirley Williams has had during her extraordinary life - as an MP and minister, as a peer, as a Catholic and as a woman.

Making the Difference is available to buy from the Biteback website, priced £19.99

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Minority Verdict: The Conservative Party, the voters and the 2010 election, by Michael A. Ashcroft

  • September 19, 2010 12:21
  • Katy Scholes

Drawing on his unique perspective as the man responsible for the party’s target seats and polling, the 133-page book gives Lord Ashcroft’s view of the Conservatives’ progress since their third defeat in 2005, the reasons for the party’s failure to win an overall majority in 2010, and David Cameron’s decision to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

Minority Verdict follows Lord Ashcroft’s influential analysis of the 2005 election campaign, Smell the Coffee: A wake-up call for the Conservative Party, which called for the party to modernise and re-engage with voters, having come to be seen as untrustworthy and out of touch.

Lord Ashcroft said: “There has been speculation as to my view of the Party’s performance in the election, and of David Cameron’s subsequent decision to forge a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. By putting an end to speculation, Minority Verdict sets the record straight. This is a record of what I really thought at the time, and what I think now. And if there is to be a public debate about this subject, Minority Verdict represents my first and only contribution to it. I do not intend to comment beyond what is contained within its pages.”

Order Minority Verdict here.

To read Andrew Alderson's article in the Sunday Telegraph, click here. To read the Sunday Telegraph's exclusive interview with Lord Ashcroft, click here.

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The Pope, the police and Lady Gaga

  • September 17, 2010 15:46
  • Katy Scholes

Today is Pope Day. It’s finally here. The roads are closed. The steel-toecapped bobbies are out in full force and have their arms folded and legs shoulder width apart. Is that a requirement?

Either way, it’s all getting a bit exciting.

It’s T minus 1 hour until he arrives in his almost equally famous Popemobile. People are lining the streets behind metal fencing. And I’ve been told reliably that the Pontiff won’t miraculously appear out of nowhere at the point where the fencing begins.

I have my telephoto lens at the ready (purely by chance, I hasten to add) and am prepared to get some snaps of His Holiness from the office window.

Odd, though, something tells me that if it were Lady Gaga cruising nonchalantly down Albert Embankment in the Popemobile (or would it be the Gagamobile?) I’d be pressed up against the barriers, screaming nonsensically. Still, this is a big deal too, right?

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any books we’ve published that can be in any way linked to this, but you can buy books here and here and here and here. You know, just in case that’s why you’re here.

UPDATE: People with flags!

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Watch them, watching him, watching them...

  • September 16, 2010 13:24
  • Katy Scholes

John Sweeney, author of Rooney's Gold and one of the BBCs leading investigative journalists is up to his tricks again. The trailer for Panorama: The Secrets of Scientology, airing on the BBC September 28th, sees John wandering up to various cameramen filming him for reasons which can be inferred but are undisclosed. It's pretty funny stuff - John seen being as nonchalant as ever.

Rooney's Gold, out now, is the story of the rise and fall and rise again of Wayne Rooney, a boy from the mean streets of broken Britain – few streets meaner than Croxteth in Liverpool – who lifted himself out of poverty by his footballing genius to play for Manchester United and England. On the pitch (most of the time) a hero. Off it, the centrepiece, with his wife Coleen, of perhaps the most vacuous media soap opera of modern times. Buy your copy here for £18.99.

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