Friday 5 April 2024

One woman and her thumb.

 In the Summer of the year 2000, Maureen, my wife, and I went on holiday to central Italy. We stayed just outside the hilltop village of Paciano, where we had spent our honeymoon inside the wall twelve years before. This time howeverwe wqre  in an Agriturismo which we had also stayed in before more recently and indeed where we would, twelve years later, spend our last holiday together. 

But we did not holiday alone for we invited friends to join us. They were my very best pal and his partner, now wife, together with their wee girl, then aged two or three. 

They are both well known figures on the Scottish political scene, then and now, so I'll not draw them into this involuntarily. I'll accordingly refer to my best pal only as BP, although that will probably be sufficient identification for some. We were a few days before them in arriving. 

Anyway, when they did arrive, BP arrived clutching a book. No great surprise as he was and is a voracious reader, but usually of works of non fiction, particularly political biographies. 

But this wasn't a work of non fiction, it was a novel. A hardback with a boldly coloured cover. 

On their arrival, we had a kind of anticipation of the evening ahead. We'd eat, the bambina would go off to bed and the four adults would then spend the hours late in to the night sitting on the covered terrace talking and good naturedly arguing about politics or indeed any other topic that came up.

Only that's not what happened. For, after a brief polite interval, BP announced that he was going to bed as he wanted to read his book. Which he did, right through the night and indeed back on the terrace once dawn had broken. Until it was done. Whereupon he insisted that I must read it as well, "But it is children's book!" I responded, the name of the author being already vaguely known to me. "It is much more than that" he replied. So I started reading and then performed pretty much the same exercise as him over the next day or so. Stopping only to eat and engage in the occasional dip in the pool. It was, after all, the high summer in Italy. And, when I'd finished, I insisted Maureen must read it as well. For, it was indeed. much more than a children's book. 

Now, by now, you have probably worked out that the book's title was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. 

And as the holiday went on, because of its distinctive cover, you realised that the book was in pretty much every teenage hand. In the hand of the girl on a bar terrace being assailed by her slightly younger brother that she was reading too slowly, preventing him from getting started. Perhaps most astonishingly in the hand of Dutch and German kids reading it with difficulty in English because they couldn't wait for the native translation. And, just like BP and I, in a fair number of adult hands as well.

On my return home I obtained and devoured the previous three volumes and then awaited the next instalment as impatiently as any thirteen year old. 

However, at least for a while, I remained largely ignorant of the author beyond that she lived in Edinburgh and was becoming steadily more famous. But as you read the books you realised "where she stood" and that was firmly on the left. Not the mad left but the left. Her targets: innovative teachers over prescriptive ones; against the excesses of the tabloid press; for those who prided achievement over celebrity; against prejudice of any sort; not just for good over evil but for right over wrong. And in her central characters, for girls being as brave as boys, not as "tomboys", as earlier children's literature might have had it, but as proper girls. Albeit just that wee bit more clever and sensible than the boys. In Hermione's case, much cleverer than her two main co-adventurers. Without Hermione ever, other than good naturedly, claiming superiority to them. Albeit with a fair amount of exasperation. I loved the books, alongside literally hundreds of millions of others. Even as I write here, I am thinking I might read them again after my imminent retirement.

And then, of course, came the films. And so much else, and the riches that rightly followed. 

But then slowly, as her fame demanded, the author herself became steadily better known. Not just her personal history before her literary rise to fame but that, following her rise, she proved not just to talk the talk on being on the left but to walk the walk as well. Not only in paying her taxes in full, and being proud to say that, but in her literally giving her money away to her chosen charities. To Multiple Sclerosis support and research,  in acknowledgement of the disease that claimed her mother's life but also to Lumos, the charity she personally set up to assist abandoned or orphaned children in central Europe. And to so many other worthy causes.  

And also, directly to political causes: to the Labour Party and probably most famously. in 2014, to Better Together. She never once sought personal reward or popularity in return. Indeed in some cases earned the exact opposite in response. But she did what she thought was right. Dare I say it, like Harry and Hermione and Ron. 

As she did the same in June 2020 when she entered the Trans debate, Nobody required her to do it. In the essay that accompanied her most major intervention, she had clearly read widely on the issue and must have anticipated the response from the hysterics on the other side. But she did it anyway. Because she thought it was right. 

And, at the time, it must have been for those most besieged, like the relief of Mafeking had felt to Baden-Powell. I mean no disrespect to those then in the front line, but while they did have a small coterie of sisters, they, and their persecution, had, until then, largely gone unnoticed in the world beyond University Campuses and public sector HR Departments. They must have thought they would be besieged forever. And then, suddenly, Forstater and Stock, Bindel and Joyce, I write them out in a verse, had the support of the most famous feminist in the world. And the world paid attention. And has kept paying attention. I am sure JKR has no desire whatsoever to own a white horse but, should she show the vaguest intention of wanting one, I'm certain the money would be instantly raised by the sisters through public subscription. Money which she would insist on refunding to a worthy cause. Even while wondering what exactly to do with the horse.

And so to this week. It is no accident that the Hate Crime etc,.Act was mooted just before and proposed to go forward just after Ms Rowling's initial major intervention. Unsurprisingly, the attention seeking Minister in charge was either too stupid to notice or too stupid to think through its potential consequence for him. The Act doesn't. as I've pointed out in earlier blogs this very week, actually change the law. But its trans supporters were led to believe that it did by a hopelessly out of his depth Minister, now our First Minister. He had been persuaded in doing so he would prove to have been on the right side of history by a small number of men dressed as women who had persuaded him in turn that changing the law would be popular. And although he hadn't changed the law, he led them in turn to believe that he had. 

But JKR wasn't having that. In an intervention perhaps blunter than even some of her strongest supporters might have anticipateded, she pointed that claiming you are a woman does not make actually make you a woman. Unless, of course. you are a woman. And the response of the Scottish establishment was almost instant. It was to run away. Not only was it announced that she hadn't broken the law but indeed she hadn't even "committed" a "non crime hate incident," Whatever that ever was, it is unlikely to have much of a future duration, even as a concept. Useless, in the midst of his rout, has been left demanding people stop making "hate crime " complaints, having at the start of the week, encouraged them to do so. The rest of the Scottish Cabinet appears to have disappeared in to thin air. The next supposed advance of  the Trans rights boys, a ban on "Conversion Therapy", an equally incoherent proposition, is I suspect about to disappear into the longest of long grass and we will finally get to the point where people will be free to state publicly that Trans "Demands" are not the same as Trans "Rights". Unless actual women will sign off on them.

One woman, albeit a very accomplished one, has taken on the entire SNP establishment, all their Spads and other advisers, all their publicly funded satraps in the third sector, all their sycophants in the press, all those opposition politicians who have laid down to this nonsense to date. And she has triumphed. Armed with nothing more than her reputation, a warm wind at her back, and, on twitter, her thumb. 

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