Tom Clarke MP: 'I'd be Atticus Finch'
This article is from the June 2013 issue of Total Politics
The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell, an incisive book about the extremes of wealth and the reality of poverty. It should be compulsory reading for every Labour Party member and aspiring politician.
Your favourite political biography?
James Callaghan’s autobiography Time & Chance. It was written in a very relaxed but perspicacious style, and didn’t attempt to settle old scores.
Whom would you like to write a political biography about?
John Smith, who had a gift of being able to mix in any company; with miners and steel workers as with fellow legal luminaries and politicians. If he’d been PM, the Labour Party would have been a ‘broad church’ with its members feeling comfortable with the role they were playing.
What was your favourite children’s book?
I was older than most when I read Lavinia Derwent (Elizabeth Dodd), an author with a wonderful imagination that simply captivates children.
What’s the most inspiring book you’ve ever read?
Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country. Written before the fall of apartheid in South Africa, and an influential contribution to it.
Your favourite political novel?
No Love for Johnnie by Wilfred Fienburgh, about the trials and tribulations of a Labour MP struggling with career ambitions, and some of the challenges which life around Westminster and his constituency threw in his way.
Name the most significant book of the last 10 years
Bob Woodward’s State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III is an insightful, penetrating exploration of the Whitehouse after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
What would you like to write a book about?
My predecessor-but-one, Jean Mann MP. Her life and times have been somewhat neglected in literature. She should get credit for taking on the Housewife’s League, campaigning for women’s votes in Switzerland and presenting her views in a persuasive Glaswegian style. She helped save the Labour Party by voting as a member of Labour’s national executive committee against the expulsion of Nye Bevan.
Which fictional character would you be?
Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. In the film adaptation, he was played by Gregory Peck.
Tom Clarke is Labour MP for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill