Blog: Talking of books…

Catherine Sleep | 5 May 2004

Last night I attended a talk by the great Roy Hattersley, former Labour cabinet minister and now prolific journalist and author of some 15 books. Warning: this blog entry has little to do with food, so if that's going to irritate, keep on walking.

Lord Hattersley was taking part in our local village arts and music festival. He talked for around an hour about John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist Church. Despite being an atheist, he wrote a biography of Wesley last year, so he knows his stuff. After an entertaining lecture he answered a good dozen questions from his audience at length.

Although I was interested in the subject matter from the outset, I also found it fascinating simply to observe an eminent politician speaking, unheckled, and most of all absolutely unconcerned about how he might be portrayed the next day in the media. It made me realise how rare it is that we offer politicians such a long slot to put forward their views on, well, anything much at all. They know their speeches must be liberally peppered with media-friendly sound bites if they are likely to get any coverage at all.

And this is a shame, for it reduces politicians and “thought leaders” (ooh, hate that term) to mere shadows of the orators they could become, given some practice. We also run the risk of reducing complex issues to black and white, and this was never more dangerous than where food is concerned – we tend to see politicians as either “for” or “against” biotechnology, for example. That has to be bad news for the average person’s grasp of important issues, as well as our involvement and engagement in the political process.

So how we can change things? Answers on a postcard please.

And if you’re interested in Lord Hattersley’s book, it’s called John Wesley: A Brand from the Burning, and you can use your Amazon gift voucher to buy it (see below).

John Wesley: A Brand from the Burning


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