A Woman’s Work by Harriet Harman
When Harriet Harman was close to completing her degree at York University, a male tutor took her aside and told her she was borderline between a 2:1 and a 2:2, but that she’d definitely get a 2:1 if she slept with him. In her memoir, A Woman’s Work, the Labour MP writes that she rejected his “repulsive” offer (and got a 2:1 anyway), but later learned that a friend from a less wealthy background had “succumbed”. “The story is a striking lesson not merely about the abuse of power, but the protection sometimes unfairly afforded by privilege,” said Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian. And if you think such things no longer happen “then you probably need to read this book”, in which Harman details the sexism that has dogged her throughout her long career. This is a “chatty” and “occasionally eye-opening” account of what it feels like to be a woman in the “macho” world of Westminster.
“If you open this book hoping for a gossipy insider account of the Labour years, you have come to the wrong place,” said Tim Shipman in The Sunday Times. Instead, Harman offers numerous examples of being “traduced” by male colleagues: Gordon Brown cancelling meetings without telling her, and asking her to do things and then doing them himself; John Prescott, whom she succeeded as Labour deputy leader, refusing to lend her any guidance. Though Harman’s “schoolmarmish” tone can be off-putting, those who persevere “will find an important story being told”. The “not often acknowledged” truth about Harman is that she “has balls”, said Ann Treneman in The Times. She is that “rare politician who has consistently stood up to the powers that be”. If I ever doubted her commitment to the cause, “I don’t now, having read” these pages – an “unflinching mixture of honest revelations and turgid political process”.