Sue Townsend was writer with a light touch, loved by our children (and us) because her books were funny, real, slyly political, enlivening and truthful. I can’t outdo all those beautiful tributes that have been paid to this author who suffered from so many illnesses and still kept writing and laughing.
I do though want to remember a part of her life that has been passed over in the obits. She was a fierce socialist and felt deeply for the poor because she had survived poverty herself. Divorced young, she had to raise three children on very little. She searched litter bins, and had to beg from those doling out emergency welfare cash. The great thinker and writer Richard Hoggart died last week too. He had also known poverty as a child. His widowed mum had nothing and died too young.
I met Townsend at an event many years ago. With a broad smile, she said she detested what Tony Blair and co had done to the Labour Party. They were subjugators of the working classes and Mandelson was like a colonial governor. I wonder how Townsend and Hoggart felt in their last years as austerity bit hardest those who had least? What they had known and left behind came back with a vengeance. Future Townsends and Hoggarts may well be out there - but trapped, their will sapped. Compared with today, Thatcher’s kingdom seems less harsh and actually allowed more possibilities. What a terrible state we’re in.