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Great time on The Wright Stuff, and why I am renaming my diaries Fifty Shades of Power

Posted on 26 June 2012 | 11:06am

I must admit to being a bit grouchy with Random House publicity for getting me up for another early start in order to spend much of the morning as a panellist on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff. I am not a daytime telly kind of person … Yet I really enjoyed it, not least because of the extraordinary ground that we were able to cover.

There was plenty of time for discussion of my new book, Burden of Power, re Iraq, Ireland etc, but in addition we had fairly serious and lengthy discussions on Scottish independence, mental illness, and the publishing phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey, as well as shorter discussions on issues as varied as welfare reform, poverty in Britain, energy saving, dieting, racist abuse on twitter, Alzheimer’s, autism, Royal protocol, and lots more besides, complete with phone-ins as well. Oh, and I played the bagpipes on telly again.

Unless it is sport, I never watch TV during the day, but I thought in terms of format, length, tone and audience participation, it was a pretty good way of making a lot of different issues accessible to people who do watch it.

I also came a little closer to understanding the incredible Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, which last week sold as many copies in Britain in that seven day period as my first book, The Blair Years, sold in total – and that remains the second best selling political book of the Blair era, after TB’s Journey.

My fellow panellist, Amanda Lamb, said she first heard of the book on twitter, when she asked her followers what book to take on her honeymoon. Back came an avalanche of ‘Fifty Shades,’ mainly from women. She read it, loved it, and later gave it to her new husband, saying ‘there is not much in here that I wouldn’t mind being done to me.’ How her husband feels about hearing this on TV I don’t know, but it does suggest Fifty Shades’ success is built on women’s sexual fantasies and frustrations and that it is best understood as a written exhortation to men that women may be more adventurous than we were brought up to think.

Anyway, as a major resister of hype, I do find my resistance to this one wearing down. In Spain recently, a woman at the conference I was speaking at, told me she had read all three of the Fifty Shades trilogy, found them badly written but ‘utterly gripping’, and added that it had changed her attitude to sex. She showed me the section where the man in the book submits a contract to the woman. He is known as the Dominant, she as the Submissive, and I can’t say it turned me on or filled me with desire to read much more.

But I have now seen so many people reading it, and seen so many smiles at my publisher’s as the cash comes rolling in (yes I share a publisher with EL James) that I feel I have to. So once I have got through the ten books at my bedside, I will, and will let you know what I think.

Meanwhile thanks to the twitterer who suggested I change the name of my book. Memo to Random House – let’s change the title from Burden of Power to Fifty Shades of Power, and have a drawing of me tying up Clare Short on the front cover …
Mmm, maybe not.

PS Amanda was brilliant talking about mental illness. She has a brother with borderline personality disorder and spoke really well about what it was like for him and what it was like for his family. The debate was about whether public figures with mental health problems have a duty to talk about them. Two callers with mental health problems felt that they did. Amanda and I shared the view that they do not have a duty, and it has to be their choice, but that it will help break down the stigma and taboo the more that people do talk openly about it. To get involved join the Time to Change campaign, of Fifty Shades of Breaking Down Stigma as I may now call it.

  • Vincent Murphy

    1) Gunmetal 2) Slate 3) Charcoal 4) Smoky room 5) Battle-ship 6) Pewter 7) Storm cloud 8) Goose down 9) Pigeon wing 10) Ashes 11) Choppy sea 12) Plover egg 13) Prison uniform 14) Confederate cap, 15) Lead pipe 16) Morning jacket 17) Old bath water 18) Grizzled beard 19) Salt & pepper hair 20) Sea mist 21) Mountain fog 22) Drizzly dawn 23) Winter twilight 24) Carbon, 25) HB Pencil 26) Brushed steel 27) 50’s photo 28) Street light casing, 29) Scaffold pole 30) Willow bark 31) Concrete slab 32) Cement floor 33) Curb stone 34) Very old net curtains 35) Ghostly image 36) Cheap jogging-bottoms 37) Elephant’s ear 38) Dense cobweb 39) Squirrel fur, 40) Dome of St Paul’s 41) shocked pallor 42) Wolf’s pelt 43) African Parrot 44) Sharks skin 45) Comfy big pants 46) London cobbles 47) Wet seal 48) Luminous pearls 49) Dappled mare 50) Brain matter.

  • Anonymous

    Wish I’d watched the show and am half tempted to read the book. Alastair spot on that women are more adventurous than we were brought up to think, many of us discovered this anyway but it would have been more efficient to discover it earlier!

  • Gary Hay

    Hi Alastair, I’ve been on annual leave for a few days and return to work tomorrow. I caught you on The Wright Stuff this morning and thought it was excellent. Surprisingly nice balance of humour and heartfelt analysis of some serious issues, thankfully without any pomposity. Thought you gelled really well with Kaye Adams and Amanda Lamb. Really enjoyed it and it looked like you did as well!

  • Ehtch

    Watch the Wright Stuff ocasionally, but missed it live yesterday (and live+1), but just watched it all the way through on their version of their iplayer, Demand 5 (free plug!). And may I say what I said about it the other day, I was totally wrong, not full of adverts at all, none in fact, unlike the pesky versions of the other two channels, where I have yet to watch a programme all the way through, where trying to fast forward to a part of in it is a total nightmare.

    Anyway, enjoyed the episode, quite racey for morning telly, where many sexual bondage and S & M tips were given, nice – just keep an eye on ladies on trains and buses, or even at work, with wrist bruises in coming months, in amateur bedroom adventures, until they get the hang of it(!).

    Good stuff on mental health, where it should be day-to-day part of human living and accepted and built into more how we live. Mental illness can be a vicious circle, where more you try to hid it, the more stress and pressure you feel, and you spiral down more. And I have said it before, sometimes it is not only due to just the brain, but can be caused by various general body physical illnesses, gland hormones, for instance, or auto-immune disorders affecting brain chemical levels.

    And as for the royal curtsying business, my god, we don’t live in, say, the fourteenth century anymore. And always said it, our Royal Family should become more like the other various european royal families, more 21st century. And bin those horse and gold carts – they looked ludicrous at Ascot last week. Tell them Jeremy C, we run around in cars these days – a fleet of Range Rovers is more like it.

  • Anonymous

    You can watch it here reaguns – available for next six days,

    No ads at before it starts or during it, which was a nice
    surprise to me. Not sure if that applies to all Channel 5
    Demand 5 online repeats.

  • Anonymous

    51) 1930’s Manchester.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Ehtch.

  • Anonymous

    achchch – might has well post it, been bothering me since this morning whether to post it or not, but might as well, Bondage Up Yours!, sung by the late marvellous Poly Styrene of X-Ray Specs, video filmed near The Design Museum is now, near Tower Bridge, little down river from London Bridge train station, on the South Bank. An education how it was derelict in the late 1970’s, the old wharfs and warehouses,

    WHOOPS! just realised, “Identity” was filmed at said location, as here,

    Good stuff.

  • Anonymous

    as an off thought, always fantasised in day dreams in going along Charing Cross Road if any of those bookshops needed an assistant, Black Books Dylan Moran style, until I came to my senses when I realised I would no doubt would be paid pennies. Where would I live/pub prices are extortionate, and etc. etc.? Sounded like Dylan Moran then at the end, didn’t I? No? oh fuck off then… : )

  • Ehtch

    no probs.

  • Anonymous

    By the way the one on the bass is Lora Logic, yes, a lady, happy mother these days. Just thought I’d point that out, to get the sexual proportions of group sorted, for cultural history. Ok, so Lora was a bit light and streamlined up top, so? I like them that way, always liked my ladies, HARRUMPH! athletically titted, and tomboyish.

  • Anonymous

    for said video, heard they paid the security guards then twenty quid for access to let used said old warehouse. Nice Pizza place downstairs from there now these days. Loverly Polish loverly served us, gave her a good tip, said she was only three hundred kms outside Gdansk, and that was good enough for me…

    And as for the Design Museum, I well recommend it – the top floor was full of incredible design chairs when I visited it. And Ogle wotsit was going on when I visited it, as in 1960’s ad agency. Link here,

    Design, and, Museum – doesn’t quite sound right, doesn’t it? It goes round in circles, doesn’t it, design? just a thought…

  • Anonymous

    for those ignorant on Dylan Moran, and it is quite fucking wotsit, since the Germans are playing the Ities this evening in footie, Moran as here,

  • Ehtch

    When I was in the RAF, used to work in a clean room servicing gyroscopes, where we had to get down to our pants and wear clean special thin nylon gear on. And it was a badge of honour what you got up to the previous night if you had scratches right up and down on one’s back. Especially when the blood started seeping through during the morning in that white kit…..

    More tea Vicar?

  • Ehtch

    as here,

    Liked her spunkeyness back in the day.

  • Gilliebc

    That’s funny 🙂

  • Ehtch

    WHO GAVE ONE LIKE?? you perve.: ) join the club. Speaking to Franny in the last day, her other half Whiskers is down visiting his brother in Leicester rugger, so I have been keeping her amused in the meantime. God knows what Whiskers is up to, as no doubt Fran is wondering. Francesca is her full name, an OZ Italian. Loverly girl, six foot tall, and I am not bullshitting you, gives my five foot nine welsh frame a cricked neck talking to her.

    Adelaide her Italian family eventually settled.

  • Ehtch

    Friday morning was the check other peoples back day. I ussually won. I was a dirty welsh sort. Put those english to shame, wih their wives. NOOO, no no, only joking, or am I? Meaow. meaow too Mrs Smith…

  • reaguns

    Can you explain Ehtch, a poor innocent soul here who is not sure he gets this! Is this Fifty Shades of Ehtch?!

  • Ehtch

    Multi-faceted I think the phrase is. And as for Fifty Shades, think it is all about being a princess in the kitchen, and a whore in the bedroom, I think. But I might be predjudiced, maybe, ladies….

  • Ehtch

    By the way reaguns, think Wright is back this morning with his Stuff. Maybe he will reflect how it went on without him last week. He is a bloke I really like – he can’t give a feck, and is a bit like me. Laughs at nonsense hypocrisy at any chance he gets. Matthew Mark my words and puke, Luke. What do you say, John?

  • Michele

     You nicked my link!
    I love the one about the French …. their habit of making morning coffee naked

    ………… from the waist down 😀