on MP Jo Cox’s murder; on writing & politics

This is a blog post I never wanted to write, at least not in this way.

I was so shocked by the brutal murder of Labour MP, Jo Cox, yesterday. But the attack on her was not senseless – we can and must make sense of it. It is the product of deeply polarised politics, in which hatred flourishes. The man who attacked her has known links to the far-right.

I’ve just been through an incredible year on the Fabian Women’s Network mentoring programme, meeting the most amazing group of women it has ever been my privilege to meet. Amazing women, all doing their utmost to change this world for the better. Some have already become councillors, others plan to stand as MPs – a new generation of women committed to social progress and positive change. It appalls me, frankly, that in doing this they (& I include myself in this) are putting themselves potentially in harm’s way. Potentially? Let’s be clear: women Labour MPs are frequently the target of the most awful online abuse and violent threat. Whether you agree with me politically or not, we each of us have a responsibility to one another, otherwise what society do we live in, other than a barbaric one? One in which brilliant women are brutally murdered for daring to stand up for what they believe in? The attack on Jo Cox is an attack on us all. Change begins with recognising that, recognising our common humanity, and in strengthening it.*

Change begins with each of us. The FWN is accepting new applications to its 2016-17 programme – find out more and apply here: https://fabianwomen.org.uk/mentoring/

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I did an MA in Creative Writing a few years ago. Going through old work yesterday, I came across a story I’d written, set in Detroit, told from the point of view of a pregnant young woman. The feedback on it warned me against fiction being political. The inference being that politics sully literature.

Well, with all respect, to hell with that. My work is political, all of it, every single word.

*

In an article last year for LitHub, novelist Aminatta Forna commented on her experience of judging the International Man Booker Prize, and noted how few western authors were politically engaged – (Where are the West’s Political Novelists?).

‘Not long ago I asked an American publisher at the London Book Festival whether she received many manuscripts for political novels. She said no. Aloud I wondered why. “There is an idea that a political novel…” she hesitated, disinclined, I think to be undiplomatic, and so I supplied the answer: “Undermines the literary aesthetic?” “Yes,” she nodded.

Now, this is an idea that has been around a long time. And it has given political fiction a bad name. But who said it? To tell writers not to tackle political themes because it will spoil the beauty of their work sounds very much to me like telling an attractive woman she is far prettier when she keeps her mouth shut.’ Aminatta Forna.

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*To my dear FWN co-mentees: you have been an enormous inspiration to me. Do not be silenced. Be brave, be strong, be vocal. xxx

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