Saturday, 30 August 2008

Here it is at last!

As you are here you have probably been reading my blog, and you will know that I was the Labour MP for Reading East from 1997 to 2005 and that I am now doing other things, but I am still excited by politics, people and life. There is an explosive story to tell about some of the things that went on in the "Blair Years", so I have decided to tell it. It starts like this:


by Jane Griffiths

The Reason Why

Nobody asked me to write this story. I haven’t been commissioned, advised, or in any way approached. I’m an ordinary woman from a council estate in west London by way of a town in Bedfordshire, an English university, a minor talent for languages and an unasked-for passion for politics. A woman of no importance. But I was one of the “Blair Babes”, a label that stuck to us whether we liked it or not. A female Labour MP elected for the first time in 1997 and in Parliament through most of what Alastair Campbell did, and I am sure later historians will, call “The Blair Years”. I had no hope or expectation of government office, unlike some of the Babes, and so I was never disappointed. I was delighted and humbled by the immense privilege of holding the office of Member of Parliament and I wanted to do it as well as I could. I wanted to do the job of representing my constituents as well as it could be done, and that didn’t mask thwarted ambition, it is simply the truth. Again, unlike many who reach Parliament, often, (unlike me) after years or decades of struggle, I was happy and satisfied with how far I had come. For me the sense of privilege that comes with holding the office of Member of Parliament stayed real throughout the eight years I held that office. For me it is significant that an MP does not have a job as such. There is no employer, although a salary is paid. An MP is an office holder, and it was an office I was proud to hold. Like probably a majority of MPs, I did not leave that office entirely voluntarily, although I was not defeated at an election. I was the first Labour MP to be deselected for about 10 years, although there have been several more since 2004, and a great many resignations before 2005 were due to a similar scenario. This is not the story of My Battle Against The Bastards, or How The Men In The Dark Crushed An Uppity Girl, although that story is there. It is simply my story in politics. It is a Labour story, though I believe something similar could be written by a member of any other party. But for more than 11 years at the time of writing we have had a Labour government. I knew some of its members quite well, and certainly associated with many of them in one way or another. I played my small part in the happenings of the Blair Years. I was there for the debates and agonies that surrounded the approach to the Iraq war, and my views on that are unfashionable on the left, though I believe they are increasingly finding a constituency in parts of the left in the politics of humanitarian interventionism, or what Americans call “liberal hawks”. I simply think I have a story to tell, and that people might be interested in what it was like to be a political activist and in Parliament during the years when Britain got better.

This book is for everyone. No one person or event inspired me to write it, though several played a key part in the thinking that brought it about. It’s for everyone interested in politics, but also for everyone who thinks there is more to political events, national and international, than a headline in the Guardian – or the Daily Telegraph. It is for everyone who wants to hear the story of a life, which happens to have been for some years a life in politics. It is for Reading Labour Party, some present and former members of which remain dear friends, and for some members of which my hope is that they come to their senses. It is, for very different reasons, and in alphabetical order, for Isobel Ballsdon, Helen Clark, Roger Hayes, John Howarth, Jane Jolly, Jonny Morris, Andrew Pegg, David Sutton, the late Wilf Wild and the people of Woodley. It is for the memory of Fiona Jones, Labour MP for Newark 1997-2001. It is for my family, and especially for Andrew, and perhaps above all it is for my first grandchild Eliza, who will see more of the post-Blair years than I ever will, and will understand them better.

Click on the right to get my book and I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think!