In the early stages of her career as a journalist, Caitlin Moran assumed she’d never write about politics. It was, she thought, a subject for grown-ups, specifically for serious, adult men.
As her career progressed her political consciousness increased and yet still she felt she didn’t have sufficient education or knowledge to state her views publicly – “I would be shamed for writing something foolish, or ignorant, or which didn’t go into huge details about the Whig government of 1715.”
But after the huge success of her 2011 book, How To Be A Woman, written to assuage the panic that her daughters would “have to deal with all the same crushing, debilitating, time-wasting, unjoyous bullshit that I’d had to deal with when I was their age”, she realised that she did indeed have a political voice, and it was one that people wanted to hear.
Moranifesto is her second collection of writing (the last was 2012’s Moranthology) drawing on her increasingly politically charged columns for The Times, alongside new essays about the state of the world.
To be clear, you won’t find dry diatribes on the machinations of Westminster here – not least because Moran isn’t capable of writing dryly about anything.
Instead she assumes the role of both amused and distressed bystander, tackling the London housing crisis, the blitheness of the ruling classes, the Bedroom Tax, the Channel 4 series Benefits Street, online misogyny, sexual assault, FGM, abortion, cystitis, libraries, migration, adolescence, bacon, and why she has given up wearing high heels (“I’m tired of being scared of stairs”).
Here, as with How To Be a Woman, the joy of Moran’s writing lies in how she combines thoughtfulness and intelligence with proper belly laughs.
For her the personal is political and, like the finest columnists, she articulates what her readers have probably considered, but not entirely comprehended.
Often based on personal experience, her observations are heartfelt, sometimes filled with sadness but just as often bursting with joy.
Moran is rarely one to write in anger – “I find anger, in the main, a fairly useless tool to bring to communicating,” she says – but she makes an exception in her piece on Mick Philpott, the father of 17 who set fire to his house in order to frame his mistress for arson, and accidentally killed six of his children. Moran’s rage is directed at the journalists and headline writers who focused not on the fatal stupidity of Philpott’s actions but that he was on welfare.
“If people who had spent years without employment were more likely to burn six children alive,” observes Moran, wearily “then every pensioner in Britain would be a ticking time bomb – likewise every stay-at-home mother, and carefree man-about Mayfair with a private income.”
Her fury is evident but so, as ever, is her clear-sightedness. It’s this clarity about how the world can be improved, how we can all be better at life, that lies at the heart of Moran’s writing. She may be funny, but she’s also right.
Moranifesto, by Caitlin Moran. Ebury £20
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