Sunday, 5 October 2008

Are novelists more important than MPs?

Do artists carry more weight than people who spend their time directly involving in politics, either as MPs, or campaigners? I ask the question because I was interested to see that the New Statesman, in promoting their 'No Place for Children' campaign ask us to join Monica Ali, Philip Pullman and Nick Hornby in signing a petition, rather than, say, Diane Abbott or Dame Mary Marsh. Whether it's fair or not, I don't know, but it does suggest that certain artists and writers are perceived as seeing things more clearly and speaking with a particular type of authority.

In this case, the writers involved are definitely showing more wisdom and humanity than government policy and practice. The petition calls on the government to stop locking children up in detention centres for immigration reasons. The government has only recently committed to implementing the UN Convention on the rights of the child in full. Now they need to actually stop detaining children, often for long periods in inadequate conditions. It shouldn't take the imagination of a novelist to work that out. You can read articles by a number of writers and actors who have visited detention centres on the New Statesman site, just in case you need some help working out whether innocent children should be locked up or not.

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