Who Are We Now? By Jason Cowley

4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

When I think back to the 1997 election when the inept Tory government was thrown out by the voters and the future seemed bright under the new Labour government we have come a long way. Since then we have had all manner of things to contend with; domestic terrorism, the Olympics, unnecessary wars, the financial crash of 2008, Brexit and most recently the pandemic.

How has this changed us as a country though?

This is the question that Jason Cowley is hoping to answer in this book. He starts though with his aunt who has lived in the same house in Harlow for fifty years. They talk about various things, but he is there to hear about her protest of the closure of a doctor’s surgery. It was a shock announcement and there was no consultation or explanation given, other than it was no longer financially viable. This had been decided by an American Insurance and healthcare provider and no one in the area knew that this company was running an essential medical service. She became a bit of a media star in her protest against the closure.

Brexit is a big theme throughout the book. It was sold to the electorate on the grounds that we would be taking back control. I am not sure we have, but this polarization of our country has not been helped by the lurch to the political right and how we have become much less tolerant of other people and their views. But in amongst this conflict, he shows that people are still working to make our society a much better place.

He visits the Finsbury Park mosque where Imam Mohammed Mahmoud, protected a white terrorist from an angry crowd of worshippers. His quick thinking saved a man’s life that night and more than that diffused a situation that was getting more and more heated. There are stories of hope in here too, people came together to support the vulnerable during the first phase of the pandemic and he notes how the England football team under Gareth Southgate show how a diverse Britain could work if we wanted it to.

I thought this was a well-written book. Cowley is not setting an agenda in this book, rather he is holding a mirror up to the various elements of our society and reporting on them. There are moments of doom and gloom in here as some of what he shows is where society is fracturing, but there are happier stories too. Stories where people are making sure that this diverse and multicultural country that we live in works for them and everyone else. Well worth reading for a view on where our country is at this moment

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  1. Liz Dexter

    This does sound interesting, although as a New Statesman reader, I wonder how much I have read of it in his and others’ writings there, on the Imam, for example. I expect I will come to it in due course, however!

    • Paul

      It was an interesting perspective on where we are. It did lack any opinion on where we are going from here though. Probably there is some overlap. I can send it onto you if you’d like

      • Liz Dexter

        Oh, that would be very kind of you – no rush, though!!!

        • Paul

          Noted. I will see if I can round up a couple more to go with it.

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