Writings

Finding vindication: on the intertwined lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley

Charlotte Gordon has managed to produce that rare thing, a work of genuinely popular history. Romantic Outlaws: the Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley Charlotte Gordon Hutchinson, 649pp, £25 This ingeniously constructed double biography tells the story of a mother and a ­daughter, two writers, who did not know each other. Mary Wollstonecraft, the author… Continue reading…

Radio 4’s Two Rooms shows how Labour is getting it right

Last night I took part in BBC Radio 4’s soft focus pre-election programme Two Rooms, along with Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator ( which now, rather amusingly, calls itself ‘ the oldest continuously published magazine..’) The basic premise of the programme is that two groups of people – one broadly optimistic about their lives… Continue reading…

Why bringing back grammar schools is not proving a popular idea……

A quick report on two successes for the comprehensive argument in recent student union debates. The first was held on February 5th, at Manchester Debating Union, the largest student debating body in the country, where Professor Bernard Barker ( the first comprehensive student to go on to become the head of a comprehensive school) and… Continue reading…

Upcoming debates – part 1

I will be taking part in a few debates and discussions over the next few months. First up – see below….. MANCHESTER DEBATING UNION This House Would Reintroduce Grammar Schools February 5 @ 5:00 pm / 6:30 pm This House Would Reintroduce Grammar Schools Grammar schools, dominant in the UK until the 1960s, ran under… Continue reading…

Primary politics: parenting advice from Toby Young and Michael Rosen

Two publications ostensibly designed to provide reassurance and wisdom to parents of primary-age children and perhaps to tap in to the ever-growing “pushy parenting” market. What Every Parent Needs to Know: How to Help Your Child Get the Most Out of Primary School  Toby Young and Miranda Thomas Viking, 432pp, £14.99 Good Ideas: How to Be Your… Continue reading…

Some autumn events

IN CONVERSATION WITH OWEN JONES September 29th, 7 pm. I will be in conversation with Owen Jones about his new book The Establishment: And how they get away with it Location: Sutton House, 2-4 Homerton High Street, Hackney, London E9 6JQ The event is put on by Pages bookshop in Hackney. Go to their events… Continue reading…

Is Britain still too elitist?

Below, my contribution to a recent discussion in Prospect, reflecting on the publication of a recent report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. The big question: Social mobility Is Britain still too elitist? A new report states that people educated at Oxbridge have created a “closed shop at the top” Each week, Prospect… Continue reading…

… and short interview about the Edinburgh festival itself….

Continue reading…

Edinburgh International Book Festival

My session at the recent Edinburgh International Book Festival ( August 17th) was filmed. There is also an added bit at the end, talking to members of the audience about their reaction to the session and the festival etc. Continue reading…

Women on the verge: Melissa Benn on Beatrix Campbell and Laurie Penny

Prepare to be depressed. We are living through the “end of equality”, the once-celebrated advances of feminism going into dangerous reverse. End of Equality Beatrix Campbell Seagull Books, 134pp, £6.50 Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution Laurie Penny Bloomsbury, 288pp, £12.99 Beatrix Campbell, journalist and activist, working-class radical and feminist, now in her later sixties,… Continue reading…