Best Political Book by a Non-Parliamentarian
Stephen Lotinga, the Chief Executive of the Publishers Association, said: “Great political writing offers us a lens through which we can examine our society and the world around us. This year’s shortlist of authors provides us with many profound insights into the tumultuous events of the last year, touching on important themes of gender, equality and the nature of power. I look forward to celebrating all of these important books at the House of Commons in December.”
Book of the Year
“I’m absolutely delighted that Darren McGarvey’s book Poverty Safari has won the Orwell Prize. His unflinching account of his life and the effects of deprivation and poverty is self-aware, brutally honest and more urgent than ever. If Orwell were alive, this is the book he would choose.” – Kit de Waal
Angry and eloquent in equal measure, he argues that poverty has become a political football.... No fan of identity politics either, he argues that intersectionality undermines the creation of “a well-organised, educated and unified working class”. He believes poverty will not be solved until the gulf between the classes is bridged. Written with honesty and wisdom, this is a heartfelt plea for a fairer and more caring society.
The book offers a vivid inside account of how the pressures of deprivation create a spiral in which physical illness, mental illness, addiction and violence thrive. McGarvey himself becomes hooked on booze, drugs and junk food and is treated for mental health problems — even as he carves out a position for himself as a performer and a social activist who presents BBC programmes... But his urgently written, articulate and emotional book is a bracing contribution to the debate about how to fix our broken politics.
“It hadn’t occurred to me,” he writes, “that a root-and-branch analysis of poverty might involve asking some searching and difficult questions of myself too”. Both that analysis and these questions are offered us in this intelligent and searching book. In The Aeneid Vergil wrote that the descent to Hell was easy, but coming back up, that was hard labour, hard work. MacGarvey has made that journey. His book is demanding, not always easy to read; but the reading is very worthwhile. There is insight into our social and economic state, and hard-won wisdom on offer.
Poverty Safari (subtitled Understanding The Anger Of Britain's Underclass) does what it says on the tin: it is a good – at times very good – analysis of the roots and consequences of deprivation by someone with first-hand experience and an inventive turn of phrase...the book left me with plenty to reflect on. It made me think more about the alienation that has taken place in deprived communities across the UK; it made wonder if I too am sometimes guilty of rushing to judgement.