Friday, 12 September 2014

A book to forge ones political views

There has been an earnest discussion on Facebook sparked by a question from Mark Pack about books which inspired respondents' political views. Rather tongue-in-cheek I posted "Wind in the Willows", the first book I remember being read to me. My point was that ones political inclination is most often formed from an early age and that adult reading merely tends to confirm pre-formed views.

However, when I thought back over the plot of Kenneth Grahame's classic, it seemed to me that there really were liberal seeds there. There is the idyllic opening revelling in the environment. There is the main plot of an effete self-centred land-owner destroying his inheritance and squandering the income from his tenants before being locked up for motoring offences, a rabble taking over his estate with no higher ambition than stripping the absent plutocrat's assets and then order being restored by three individuals coming together as a community. Finally, though property rights are restored, it is clear that there will be some democratic regulation in future.

My views growing up were shaped more by the BBC - then the voice of the liberal establishment - and the press including the News Chronicle, the Cudlipp Daily Mirror and the Guardian before it abandoned Manchester and Liberalism. There were inspirational speakers, like the man who gave a lecture to our school about the future of community in Europe and prominent Liberals including, of course, Jo Grimond.

In fact, it is difficult to think of a book which has been particularly influential. I have tended to invest in books which inform me about other strands of political thought. I have Rosa Luxemburg and Peter Hain on my shelves and until I thoughtlessly lent it, the memoir of Julian Critchley. The Yellow Book, the Orange Book and the Green Book are there of course, but mostly as reference works.

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