Julia Jeffries and Hazel Johnson, Quartet’s two enterprising authors of What Are They Doing in There?, their critique of the House of Commons from a feminine perspective, boldly made a direct approach to the Parliamentary Bookshop before publication and secured an order for six copies. It was not a large order, but a sensible response perhaps, and enough to test the waters.
Within hours of receiving the finished copies, however, on the day of the first historic live television debate between the party leaders, the bookshop phoned our sales department to request that they return the ordered copies.
‘It was not the sort of book whose opinions are appreciated or welcomed in the shop,’ was the gist of the conversation.
Our sales people agreed to the return, but suggested that the Parliamentary Bookshop might like to consider Jane McLoughlin’s A World According to Women, a potent warning of the infantilisation of political debate through emotional feminism. A sample copy was sent, but there has been no reply to date.
It would now seem there is a whiff of Stalin’s Politburo about the bureaucracy of the Palace of Westminster, with decrees on what shall or shall not be read; with promotion given only to those books by a political class that seeks to add to the feathering of its own nest with self-serving memoirs.
What Are They Doing in There? has meanwhile been well received, and called ‘witty and informative’, but you won’t be able to get a copy in the Parliamentary Bookshop among the anodyne pictorial histories of the ‘Mother of Parliaments’, and the tea towels and t-shirts with images of Big Ben to trap the tourists.
As Julia Jeffries and Hazel Johnson report of the bookshop, ‘They stock hundreds of books, but you will be hard pressed to find one not by a man.’
Attempts to blockWhat Are They Doing in There? by the ‘powers that be’ have been encountered at every twist and turn of the book’s writing and promotion, so confirming their belief and ours that there is a lack of balance in the current political debate. The meaning of ‘free speech’ has apparently been lost in Westminster village.
Where will it end? How far down the scale are we heading?
No wonder we have such a mood for political change when censorship is overtly endorsed by our own elected members’ apparatchiks, seeking to insulate their bosses from any book that challenges their moral standards or shows up their blatant contempt for the body politic.
They are lucky that we live in a civilised era. Otherwise their heads would be off!