Writings

How to think about forgiveness in daily life

  Marina Cantacuzino is telling me a story about two women, both of whom discovered that their partners were having affairs. For the first one – let’s call her Woman A – the infidelity, says Cantacuzino, “was seen as the act of ultimate betrayal, which not only ended her marriage but for the past 30… Continue reading…

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH PRIVATE EDUCATION?

Speech given at Westminster Abbey,  March 7 2016, to Westminster School.   Standing here in Westminster Abbey this morning, speaking to you, the pupils of Westminster School, it is only too easy to grasp the true meaning of educational privilege. The beauty of these buildings, the dizzying proximity to power and real influence – just… Continue reading…

Our Kids reveals American class inequality – which has all-too-evident parallels here

Robert D Putnam is that rare creature, a political scientist who has risen above specialism and skilful use of statistics to become the “poet laureate of civil society”. Since the publication in 2000 of Bowling Alone, which charted the weakening of social ties in modern America, he has been courted by civic and religious leaders,… Continue reading…

Under the hammer and sickle: David Aaronovitch’s Party Animals

Anyone brought up in a left-wing family gets used to a particular joshing, voyeuristic line of questioning (“I expect you spent your whole childhood on political marches”, “Did you call each other comrade?”). This is not just an everyday nosiness about an unconventional upbringing; at its worst, it can feel like a discomfiting, albeit disguised… Continue reading…

The slow revolution that makes learning fun

It’s hard to feel like a covert revolutionary when hovering around a reception class on a chilly Thursday morning. But within minutes of arriving at St Silas’ Church of England Primary School in Blackburn, it is clear that I have stepped into a bold educational experiment that daringly flies in the face of much current accepted… Continue reading…

Vivian Gornick: one of the most significant writers you have probably never heard of

Vivian Gornick is one of the most significant writers you have probably never heard of. A biographer, journalist and memoirist, she is among the supreme essayists of the past 50 years, a writer who bridges the worlds of Joan Didion and Meghan Daum, Susan Sontag and Leslie Jamison, without ever having achieved the cultural glamour… Continue reading…

Grammar school plan makes Kent a national battleground

  Sevenoaks in Kent, a quiet, affluent commuter town, is the most unlikely site for a teeming political drama. But as the county – and the country – waits for Nicky Morgan to make a final decision on whether to open the first “satellite” grammar school in 50 years, the profound political implications, either way,… Continue reading…

What would Keir Hardie Say?

If a week is a long time in politics, a century can seem surprisingly short. With uncanny timing, the centenary of the death of Keir Hardie, Labour’s first leader and arguably its most towering figure, falls at the end of this month, on the very weekend that Labour delegates will gather in Brighton for this… Continue reading…

Harry’s Last Stand by Harry Leslie Smith and Austerity Bites by Mary O’Hara – reviews

Big Society? More like Battered Society. Melissa Benn on two books that expose the ‘war on the weakest’ in Cameron’s Britain In a manner suggestive of Ken Loach’s magisterial 2013 film The Spirit of ’45, Smith sees the postwar era as Britain’s finest moment destroyed a half-century or more later by neo­liberal economics and unrestrained… Continue reading…

Man-Made: Why So Few Women Are in Positions of Power by Eva Tutchell and John Edmonds – review

In the topsy-turvy world of British politics, with Labour seeking the centre ground and the Conservative party projecting itself as the party of the workers, Man-Made feels heaven sent. With an unerring lucidity, it lays out the multiple ways that inequality continues to frustrate the aspirations of half the population. Given that its female interviewees… Continue reading…