Which peer would like to be Elizabeth Bennett?

Written by Baroness Hamwee on 28 August 2012 in Culture
Baroness Hamwee reveals her favourite pieces of political literature

This article is from the August issue of Total Politics

The Man on a Donkey by HFM Prescott, about ordinary people caught up in big events (the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536) is always compelling.

Your least-favourite?
Genres, rather than books: science fiction has never appealed; pastel-covered chick lit, whose promise of escapism rapidly becomes irritation.

What’s your favourite political biography?
Irina Ratushinskaya’s Grey is the Colour of Hope – humanity and poetry in the gulag.  And Lord Tope, whose son asked him questions that Graham answered, mostly by BlackBerry, and found he’d produced a book.

About whom would you like to write a political biography?
Baroness Seear. I got to know Nancy, then in her 80s, when I came into the Lords, and relished her toughness, political nous and comments such as (at 2am on the bench): “Go home; you young things need your sleep.”

Who would you like to write your biography?
Margaret Forster. She highlights the important within the ordinary.

Name the most significant book in the last 10 years.
Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father has probably influenced more Americans in their views on equalities than any academic tome.

What’s the most inspiring book you’ve ever read?
The novels of my friend William Palmer – most recently The India House – cover such a range of topics, places and times.

What’s your favourite book by a politician?
I’ve enjoyed listening to Chris Mullin’s memoirs on the radio, but wasn’t sure I could read something that cut so close to the bone.

Your favourite political novel?
Perhaps Gillian Slovo’s Red Dust. Viewed from our settled democracy, events in South Africa in the last two decades or so are extraordinary.

What would you like to write a book about?
I’ve talked about queues in the heat to vote in South Africa, and the lengths women here took to secure the vote. So, perhaps the Suffragettes.

Which fictional character would you be?
Charismatic and feisty would be pleasing. Elizabeth Bennett, maybe Beatrice wrapping Benedick around her little finger. Or maybe, as I’m a lawyer, Portia.

Baroness Hamwee is a Liberal Democrat peer

Tags: Baroness Hamwee, Brought to book, Issue 50, Lifestyle

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