Politicians have voted Nick Clegg’s How to Stop Brexit as the best non-fiction by a parliamentarian this year in the Parliamentary Book Awards.
The title, published by Bodley Head, argues “there is nothing remotely inevitable about Brexit – except that it will be deeply damaging if it happens” and debunks what Clegg sees as the various myths that have been used to force Brexit on Britain, and explains how this “historic mistake” can be reversed.
The Bodley Head's Stuart Williams, who received the award on behalf of Clegg, said: “Nick is thrilled to accept the award, he passes on his heartfelt thanks, he is really thrilled that his former colleagues in parliament are now listening to what he has to say more now than at any point in the 12 years that he worked here.”
Harriet Harman and Brendan Cox, the widower of later MP Jo Cox, were also honoured at the ceremony.
Harman won the title for Best Memoir by a Parliamentarian for A Woman’s Work (Allen Lane). When Harman, Britain’s longest-serving MP, started her career, men-only job adverts and a 'women's rate' of pay were the norm, female MPs were a tiny minority and a woman couldn't even sign for a mortgage. Harman’s memoir charts how far we've come, and where we should go next, arguing that there is “still more to do”.
Harman said: “I was always completely humourlessly disapproving of my male colleagues who wrote their memoirs and would denounce them as vanity projects when our task was to get the Tories out of government and then to sustain Labour in government and they shouldn’t be writing their diaries. However, I was forced to do a u-turn because as my male colleague would write their memoirs…as I would look in the pictures (of the books) the only pictures of women were of their wives or the women working for them and nothing about that great time which was the women’s movement…I would run my finger down the index and I would not be in it. Like Sheila Robot, hidden from history. So I stepped into the world of writing my memoir which I was hugely delighted to do because it took me into the world of publishing and bookselling and I’m delighted it did.”
Cox meanwhile won the Best Political Book by a Non-Parliamentarian for Jo Cox: More in Common (Two Roads) for an impassioned portrait of his late wife, Jo Cox, who was murdered by terrorist Thomas Mair in June 2016. The book reveals Jo Cox as a daughter, mother, wife, sister, MP and campaigner.
Collecting the award, Cox said it meant "a hell of a lot to me and my family, not because I fancy myself as a writer… but because this is part of keeping the memory of Jo alive".
He added the second reason he wrote it was because he thought "what Jo stood for is more important now than frankly in my lifetime and probably since the 1930s. To be living at a time we have a US president who is an active purveyor of hate and loathing,…to be living at a time when hatred is being driven against different groups in a way it hasn’t been since the 1930s...Jo’s message of 'more in common', when she wrote that maiden speech - that encapsulates how we win that battle. It is saying fundamentally 'there is more in common than what divides us'.”
Launched by the Booksellers Association (BA) and the Publishers Association (PA) in 2016, the awards aim to celebrate the best of political writing and the long-standing link between politics, books and publishing. The shortlist was voted for by UK bookshops, with 116 parliamentarians voting on the winner in each category.
Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of the Publishers Association, said: “The role books play in shaping the political debate has never been more relevant and tonight’s winners serve to highlight this. All three winning titles make vital contributions to our thinking on important political issues, whether this is on the position of women in politics, by helping us come to terms with the tragic death of Jo Cox MP or by weighing into the divisive issue of our decision to leave the European Union.”
Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association, added that the winners were “timely” and tackled “some of the major themes of the moment”. “All have been beautifully crafted, and celebrate the longstanding relationship between politics and the booksellers,” he said.
The winners saw off competition from a strong shortlist that included former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis’ Adults in the Room (Bodley Head), Jess Philips’ Everywoman: One Woman’s Truth About Speaking the Truth (Hutchinson), and Chris Skidmore’s Richard III (W&N).
Lis Tribe, PA president and Nic Bottomley, BA vice president hosted the event, and presented the winners with their awards. Conservative Party politician, Andrew Lewer sponsored the event.