To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, book of a lifetime: Truth, fairness, and a deep analysis of how policy affects lives

Nadine Dorries read Harper Lee's novel when she was 13 years old and it altered the way she thought about everyone and everything

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"Truth" and "fairness": two words you would think underpinned the British political system, regardless of who is in power. The two qualities that drove the character of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.

I read Harper Lee's novel when I was 13 years old and it altered the way I thought about everyone and everything. It instilled in me an outrageously enhanced sense of justice, which I admit, is not difficult for a Scouser, and possibly contributed to my inability to conform to the dumbed-down behaviour expected of me as an MP.

I blame Atticus for my being frequently described as "outspoken". It's a polite way of saying, "She just won't shut up," and I won't. If something is untruthful, unjust or plain wrong, I keep going where far wiser MPs would call it a day.

At the time I read To Kill A Mocking Bird, my father was not in the best of health. He died at the age of 42. Atticus was the closest character I had ever read about who matched up to him.

"You just hold your head high and keep those fists down," he says at one point. "No matter what anybody says to you, don't you let 'em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change."

I lived on a tough council estate in Liverpool. Dad said the same thing to my brother and me on most days. I wish he was still here saying it now. Another great Atticus quote is: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

What a different place the world would be if each of us could make that our default position before we passed comment; if we could spend a moment, walking in other people's shoes and considering their emotional levers and what drives them.

Atticus would have made a great politician. He would have been a statesman and run a government our country could have been proud of. The values of truth and fairness, and a deep analysis of how policy affects lives, would have been the least we could have expected from a man like Atticus Finch. He would have been tough, just and honest, even if it disadvantaged him. It's a risk no politician will take today.

Nadine Dorries' novel, 'Hide Her Name', is published by Head of Zeus

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