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The Prelude (1805 version)
Oxford University Press
For me, this is the greatest poem in the English language: a long, compelling account of Wordsworth’s own life and growth, charting the development of his mind and soul and their interaction with the natural world and with the tumultuous political events of the time – all told in rolling, lilting poetry that takes your breath away. Wordsworth was the first great environmentalist, who saw clearly how interdependent the worlds of humanity and of nature are. It’s the early 1805 version that has to be read, though: it is full of freshness and vitality, which were lost by the time he revised it all for publication in 1850.
R H Tawney 1931
This book, probably more than any other, made me realise what democratic socialism meant and why it was important. It’s a marvellous account of the intellectual and philosophical underpinning of the European left over the past 80 years. And its central thesis is that the ‘freedom from’ is a necessary precondition for the exercise of the ‘freedom to’: the freedom from want, disease, hunger, poverty, idleness or discrimination having to be secured before the freedom to do things, seize opportunities or achieve successes can be delivered. It’s a book I would prescribe as required reading for anyone aspiring to be a progressive MP.
No Ordinary Time
Doris Kearns Goodwin 1994
Doris Kearns Goodwin has become an indefatigable chronicler of American politics and history, and this is her best book – an account of the life, challenges and decisions of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House. It’s a fascinating story of the noble ideals and grubby compromises that combine together in any great political endeavour. It shows us exactly what torments and triumphs Barack Obama is enduring, right now.
Ring of Bright Water
Gavin Maxwell 1960
I loved this book when I first read it as a teenager. I still do. It’s the tale of someone who renovates a tumbledown cottage by the sea on the west coast of Scotland and shares his life there with two otters. Its evocation of the land and seascape, the rhythm of the seasons, its perceptions about the natural world, its empathy with the lives of animals, its hilarious stories of adventure and accident and tragedy, are perfectly done. Maxwell quotes a Louis MacNeice poem at the end that says ‘thank you … for making this life worth living’; and it is indeed a book infused with the spirit of life.
W H Murray 1951
Bill Murray was one of the formidable group of mid-20th century Scottish mountaineers. He wrote his first book, Mountaineering in Scotland, in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany and after it was confiscated had to write it all over again. This is the sequel, and for someone like me, who has spent a lifetime tramping the hills and glens of Scotland, it is a perfect gem. It is passionate about the beauty of the hills and mountains; it captures the sense of the infinite that lies beyond the landscape; it reminds us, deep down, why we love this wild and wonderful country.
William Shakespeare 1608
Methuen (Arden Shakespeare)
Lear is the darkest of Shakespeare’s tragedies. The play tears at our hearts, brings rage and pity, exposes the elemental forces of all our natures, renders us baffled and exhausted by folly and cruelty alike, and does it all in words that are unsurpassed. We emerge from the play feeling as if our emotions and understanding have been wrung dry. A critic once wrote that the catharsis at the end of Lear doesn’t come because we know that good has triumphed over evil – it hasn’t – but because we know ‘that it is better to have been Cordelia than to have been her sisters’.
Deregulation and tax loopholes are justified by saying that they 'protect growth'. But really, they just protect the wealthy, writes James Fox
Inequality is often treated as a law of nature - but really, it's the result of conscious political choices. It's time to choose equality, writes the IPPR's Carys Roberts.
Tom Palmer, aka Agent Kingfisher, was the 'messiah' of London's squatting scene until his death last year. But who was responsible for his fate? MI5, late capitalism or simply a drug overdose? Matt Broomfield investigates.
'Docs Not Cops' write that we must resist attempts to make our NHS any less universal
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
'We wanted to use a shared love of the beautiful game to stand in solidarity with those living under occupation', writes Kate Hadley.
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones