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Category: Ballots & Books

The TV stars MPs would love to be

Written by Steven Fielding.

In my latest book, A State of Play, I looked at the changing ways in which Britain’s representative democracy has been fictionalized since the later Victorian period. With the support of the University of Nottingham, we decided to turn the tables and ask MPs about their favourite fictional political characters. The results are intriguing.

All MPs were contacted, but with only 49 responding – that’s a 7.5 per cent return rate – I can’t claim the results are fully representative. At 22 per cent, women figured slightly less than they actually do in the Commons. But the big difference is in party terms: 71 per cent of respondents were Labour MPs – double their share in the Commons – while just 20 per cent were Conservatives, less than half their proportion in the Lower House. Maybe Conservative MPs are busier and have better things to do than answer surveys? Or perhaps they just don’t take political fiction – and possibly culture more generally – as seriously as those on the Opposition benches.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in International Relations?


Written by Vanessa Pupavac.

Martha:            Truth or illusion, George; you don’t know the difference.
George:           No, but we must carry on as though we did.

                                                Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opened on 13 October 1962 under the shadow of the Cuban missile crisis and its literary interpretation has been shaped by the threat of nuclear war. I saw Albee’s play at the National Theatre in 1981, the start of the decade which witnessed the Cold War reignited politically and the threat of nuclear war renewed. The play had not been performed in London for a generation, but the film version starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had maintained its appeal.

Class division in Brave New World and The Hunger Games: How capitalist dystopias limit individual agency

By Ibtisam Ahmed

The idea of utopia is to offer solutions to existing social problems, often in radical ways. The broad scope of the term and the etymological paradox at its heart – a place that is not a place – gives us an understanding of why this particular field of political thought appears so often in fiction. Whether the positive eutopia or the negative dystopia, a range of novels, films, television shows and even comic books have been used to explore these themes. To suggest that fictional accounts are not useful tools, then, is a glaring insult to the potential they hold.

North and South: ‘A little fierce incendiary’

By Vanessa Pupavac

‘Church and King, and down with the Rump!’ So toasts the aristocratic grandfather in Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South. ( ) But Gaskell’s 1855 novel engages with building a modern industrial nation, and specifically rejects the political and social order embodied in the old Cavalier anti-parliamentary toast. Her engagement with the challenges posed by industrialisation has insights for today’s global North-South relations and their future direction. Consider the current civil unrest in Hong Kong (, or the growing strikes in China questioning the official representation of the harmonious society ( This month’s opening of the newly restored Elizabeth Gaskell House ( is therefore a good time to open North and South to more readers. What is to be found there? Gaskell’s plot has strong parallels with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, where a parson’s daughter from the South of England overcomes her prejudices towards a factory owner from the smoky industrial town of Milton in Darkshire.

Why Shakespeare?

vanessa pupavac november 2013

In Huxley’s Brave New World Shakespeare’s works have become banned books. In the words of the Controller of the Brave New World: ‘civilization has absolutely no need of nobility or … Read the rest