Author Archives: Shirley

What Do Prince Harry, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tinie Tempah Have in Common?

Prince Harry He For She Campaign

Prince Harry, feminist, says, “Real men treat women with dignity and give them the respect they deserve.”

Why do I feel that this time it’s going to be different? That the Fourth Wave of Feminism will actually achieve equality?

Because the men are different.

Compared to the unafraid, more serious, individualist men of today, the macho but fearful, grey flannel Suits of the 70s were waxworks.

Today’s men can see the logic of the situation: it makes sense not to waste 50% of the country’s brains. It makes sense to dump the medieval attitude of men towards women that has so clearly not been dumped by Islamic extremists. It is only fair to treat women as equals, rather than unpaid servants.

In the 70s, the male backlash against feminism was instant and brutally effective. Feminists were branded hairy-legged, saggy-breasted, aggressive lesbians.

Worse – they were “unfeminine”. Nobody has yet worked out what “unfeminine” means because to be a woman is, by definition, to be feminine.

But – after years of being taught how to be feminine by women’s magazines – Seventies’ women were terrified of being unfeminine.

This time round, the women’s magazines head the Feminism Uprising and the leader is feisty Lorraine Candy, editor-in-chief of Elle. The December Feminist issue of Elle also points out that wanting Equal Pay doesn’t stop you wearing heels and shopping for lacy underwear at Agent Provocateur: you can be a feminine feminist.

Lorraine Candy, Editor-in-Chief, Elle Magazine. Photo by Victoria Adamson

Lorraine Candy, Editor-in-Chief, Elle Magazine. Photo by Victoria Adamson

Elle has photographed top male stars wearing a t-shirt that says, “This is what a feminist looks like”. These men include such icons as Benedict Cumberbatch,

Eddie Redmayne, Tinie Tempah, Christopher Kane, and long-time feminists, Eddie Izzard, Richard E Grant.

Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg wore the t-shirt. David Cameron refused.

Professor Michael Kimmel, who wrote The Guy’s Guide to Feminism (good for a Christmas stocking?) points out in Elle that the problem still exists and won’t go away because, “Women are not equal. … Just look at every political, financial, social, cultural and educational institution in the world.

“Stated most simply, gender equality is in our own interests – as men,” Professor Kimmel says, “Because we’re not just ‘men’. We’re fathers and sons, brothers and cousins, friends and colleagues, grandsons and grandfathers, lovers and partners and husbands.”

But the most convincing proof of a true trend is the size of the December issue of Elle, packed to its glamorous, hard-hitting 362 pages with exquisitely expensive advertisements.

The advertising business is run by men: clearly, the Board Room Dinosaurs are dying out. This time, the old men will lose the battle, and the young men will win. The December issue of Elle magazine is the foam on the tsunami of Western public opinion.

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What Will They Inherit?

What Will They Inherit?

Our children - how will the budget  deficit affect them?

No, it’s not Boujis, it’s Woodland Hills High School Prom no. 1, 2012. Photographer: Mark Neville.

A colossal debt is what our grandchildren stand to inherit. Let’s be clear about this, because politicians are not always clear, perhaps because they don’t understand it, although that’s unlikely.

  • The National Debt is the total amount of money that Britain has borrowed and not yet repaid.
  • The Budget Deficit is our yearly overspend, when there isn’t enough tax income to pay for Britain’s expenditure.We borrow the necessary amount of money, and it is added to the National Debt, which has been increased yearly, both by the Labour and Conservative/Liberal governments.
  • There’s a Budget Deficit because every year, there’s not enough money to pay handouts to all the people that want them – and they include all of us, from pram-pushers to pensioners. Because we all want our piece of the pie, the Chancellor borrows money to pay for it all.
  • Interest must be paid promptly on the National Debt, because otherwise nobody would continue to lend money to Britain.
  • The total National Debt is now over £1,430 Billion pounds: that is, over a million pounds, multiplied by a thousand, with that amount multiplied again by another thousand … I hope that’s absolutely clear.

In the last tax year Britain’s National Debt increased by £43 Billion. Britain is spending more on National Debt interest than on Defence and almost the same as on Education. And we are not repaying that borrowed money.

This week, the Treasury sends a letter to every one of Britain’s 24 million taxpayers; it contains a gaily-coloured pie chart, so we can see how our tax is spent. I cannot see that any money is being paid to reduce the National Debt.

Tax pie chart

HMRC tax summary

What can be done about it? Ask your would-be candidates before next year’s General Election.

Why not reduce the National Debt by 3% a year? Then, after 33 years it will have been repaid, so our grandchildren will not inherit this terrible burden. Less than 3% a year will not repay that debt fast enough.

Where can the spending cuts be made? Perhaps on Overseas Aid and Defence – who’s going to invade us? And perhaps Business and Industry might stand on their own feet, unsupported by my tax and your tax?

If we steadily paid off the National Debt in that way, it would reduce the relevant amount of interest payable, and so, gradually, that big slice of the pie would also get smaller and smaller.

But politicians publicly ignore this debt. They know that, to get our votes, they had better pay us our piece of the pie.

But not paying off our National Debt is as morally dishonest as not paying our personal debt. It is even more immoral when we know – conveniently pushed to the back of our mind – that we are leaving this huge burden to our children and – if we don’t do something about it – also to our chubby-cheeked grandchildren.

Clearly, this is morally wrong. So perhaps that 3% repayment should be included in next year’s budget plans and the gaily-coloured pie chart.

Main photo: Pulitzer Prize nominee photographer Mark Neville, famous for his socially focused projects, is about to hold two exhibitions in London. Admission free.

London/Pittsburgh is at the Alan Cristea Gallery from 21st November 2014 – 24th January 2015. Details at Art as Social Document is at the London School of Economics, 2nd – 19th December 2014. Details on the LSE website.

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How Julia Broke Big

How Julia Broke Big

Julia Hobsbawm

Julia Hobsbawm










My friend Julia failed academically at school and didn’t go to university. So how did she become a professor?

“Networking is social navigation – it’s as much about what to look for as who to know,” says Julia Hobsbawm, who wrote and presented the BBC Radio 4 series ‘Networking Nation’.

Think of networking music producer and talent-spotter Simon Cowell, who built up his business through classic networking. Think of, which started small with a good idea and now gets more than 60 million page-views a month – which is more than the entire population of Ireland or Greece, as every politician knows. So start small, think big.

“Building up your own network is like building your fitness,” says Julia. “You don’t diet and lose weight overnight, or run a marathon in a week. You slowly change your behaviour as you find out what works and what doesn’t. You need patience and stamina to keep going.”

By 2012 Julia had been made Honorary Visiting Professor in Networking at Cass Business School in London. In 2014 the Foreign & Commonwealth Office invited her to join its Diplomatic Excellence Panel.

“It’s not enough to join Facebook or Twitter then leave it at that,” Julia warns, “Face-to-face matters hugely, even in a Facebook age. You get a direct connection when you meet someone, look into someone’s eyes and hear their voice. People who meet others are happier than those who simply stay online.”

So leave the keyboard sometimes. Get out there and party.

Follow Julia Hobsbawm on Twitter: @juliahobsbawm
Find out more at

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Breaking Big

Breaking Big

Author Tara Mohr

Author Tara Mohr

It’s an irritating fashion. Internationally famous businesswomen are writing advice books, firstly to publicise themselves as not being a one-trick pony, secondly so that ordinary women can … just get off their arses and DO IT TOO. I’ve been yawning through these books for months when … suddenly … here comes the glass-ceiling smasher.

I had only read halfway through Playing Big when I realised it was one of the most important books in my life. If I see a good point in a book, I underline it in red. The first part of Playing Big looked as if I’d haemorrhaged over it.

I read the second half slowly, one chapter a week, so that I could absorb and practise what this life coach teaches so well. (Don’t think Tara Mohr looks too young to know the Secret of Life.) Some of her book had taken me years to discover, some of the practical stuff I thought I’d invented myself. Much of Playing Big, I quickly realised I needed to know. The New Age bit I took on trust … and it worked: I now have an Inner Mentor.

So, have you ever felt not-good-enough? Of course you have. Ever suffered from fear, self-doubt or lack of confidence? Join the club…

Secretly, every woman aspires to something. If you want to do anything other than housework and homework, this is your guide. If you want to achieve anything, or simply be less stressed, this book will help you do it. In it you will find your voice, your ability, your self-confidence and perhaps even your mission in life. Buy it. Pass it on.

Playing Big by Tara Mohr , is published by Hutchinson, hardback price £16.99.

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Entitlement / Biker Menace

ENTITLEMENT  “Working class” no longer describes a group of people. We all work. The Queen is working class. Union leaders probably work just as hard as Madonna.

So what replacement phrase to use?
Lower-income group and middle-income group. We can all be groupies.
The Rich stay The Rich.


BIKER MENACE  Maybe city cyclists need to pass a highway code test, pay for a road license and display their number on the back of their bike – ready for CCTV cameras to record their breath-taking, lawbreaking stupidity, and save NHS bills for themselves and their victims.

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Big Investment

Ben has two young children and is considering a mortgage with a deposit of £160,000.

Ben, gloomily, “It’s a big investment.”

Me, “A baby costs more. The Daily Telegraph says a child costs £227,000 to rear, if it doesn’t go to uni.”

Ben, still gloomy, “Trouble is, you can’t sell the baby.”

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Goodbye Lynda

Lynda Bellingham and her husband Michael Pattermore

Lynda Bellingham and her husband Michael Pattermore

Lynda Bellingham was the most popular person I’ve ever met. TV presenter Kaye Adams said it best, “You were always pleased to see her and always felt she was pleased to see you… She always left you feeling better about life.” Lynda was just as popular with TV viewers who felt they knew the Oxo mum, the pretty wife in All Creatures Great and Small, the star or presenter of so many top shows.

Three weeks ago I wrote to Lynda. “You have not had the life of a cabbage growing in a cabbage patch. You have crammed your life, and where you have had serious problems, you have used those problems to help other people avoid them. You are without a doubt one of the important people I have had the pleasure of meeting in my life. With love and thanks, Shirley.”

To my astonishment, she emailed back, five hours later. “I long to meet again and I will try but there is so much to sort and I just want my boys to get through this.
All my love, Lynda B x”

I’m glad so many of us – either directly or through the huge media interest – had the chance to tell Lynda that we loved her.

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Sex for One, Please

Following Lucy Cosslett’s excellent article on the female orgasm in Standard Issue, the following notes are based on my experience and understanding.

1. Both vaginal and clitoral orgasms are powered from the clitoris, which is not a teeny weeny penis: it does not enter anything.

2. When a penis is inserted into their vagina, some women orgasm like popguns; they are rare, I suspect. Not my situation. I need to feel really comfortable with the man, so no anxiety re my performance. So no problem with husbands or live-ins. No luck whatsoever with one night stands.

Furthermore, the exterior circumstances need to be in tune with my mood. No success – however romantic the setting – if my back is against a picturesque stone wall and it’s raining.

3. Sex toys and plastic rabbits, the curved end of a screwdriver, anything that’s been purchased does not work for me, although it’s worth trying a you-sized cucumber to really understand what frigid feels like – and to know that you are not. If anyone calls you frigid, he’s not listening to you. Kick him out of bed.

4. Whatever suits you, tell him. Whether he can accept that or not is up to him. Whether you then accept him or not is up to you.

5. With masturbation, you are in charge of the situation, so you know what’s going on. There is no anxiety (my experience).

6. You can masturbate your clitoris to orgasm using whatever sexual images move into your mind, bidden or unbidden by you.

7. This also works for a masturbatory vaginal orgasm, if you imagine penetration by the man of your choice.

8. My novel, LACE, was a book about sex from a female point of view. On my last publicity tour for the 2012 relaunch, clearly some of the male journalists didn’t quite dare ask me at what age a woman stops having orgasms.

This was a pity, because I had a reply ready: “Why ask me? I’m only eighty years old.”

Find out more about Rhiannon Lucy Cosselett and Vagenda:
Follow  Standard Issue Magazine and Vagenda Magazine on Twitter
Buy a copy of The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media


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Celebrating Women of the Year

Celebrating Women of the Year

Women of the Year 2014

Women of the Year award winners, 2014

The Women of the Year luncheon – 500 influential women at the Intercontinental Hotel

The focus of the Women of the Year luncheon was on global brutality towards women as the result of medieval practices, often tolerated for so-called cultural reasons.

What brutality? The exploitation of children as sex slaves; genital mutilation of young girls to prevent their future enjoyment of sex; “honour killings” – which could correctly be called dishonour killings; horrific domestic violence, rape … and plenty more.

I had the pleasure to make new acquaintances and catching up with old friends including Yasmin Alabhai-Brown, Tanya Byron, Lorraine Kelly, Liz Chapman – the Library Director at the LSE, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC who has done such fantastic work and her hand is all over the lunch which was very professional, international, up to date and glamorous! Also Diana Makgill, Lindsay Nicholson, Eve Pollard and Zandra Rhodes.

Read about the inspiring award winners here: Women of the Year Award Winners, 2014

Money Stuff: Going Global, and a fifth ebook?

MONEY STUFF by Shirley ConranI spent time this week with my design consultant, Elke Hanspach, looking at the visual aspects of my work, in particular the possibility of a fifth step for Money Stuff, making the course eligible for the GCSE exam.

My American colleague, Sarah McFadden, has been editing the international edition of Money Stuff. Watch this space!

My Treasures

I was photographed by the Daily Mail for a piece in a series called My Treasures in their colour magazine. I was asked what was most valuable to me (besides family) and immediately named my P.A. But you’re not allowed humans, but pets are allowed. My cat Ginger is very unfriendly and snarled at the photographer when asked to pose for a photograph. It seems he doesn’t want to be famous.

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Six Money Survival Tips

Six Money Survival Tips

1. a) From now on, take ALL responsibility for your financial future. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it, especially someone you love. This is simple, but it takes time.

1. b) Don’t rely on ANYONE ELSE in financial matters. Not your mum, dad, boyfriend, girlfriend, accountant. NO-ONE.

2. Allocate a specific time, say two hours on the first Saturday morning each month. Your money and your peace of mind will depend on this adult habit.

3. Always check – by email if possible – that what someone says they will do is actually done ON TIME. Monitor anything that is to be done by someone else. Monitoring is polite nagging and you will quickly find out that it is ESSENTIAL.

Nagging is the repetition of a question that someone doesn’t want to answer.

a) Together, fix a day for the job to be completed.

b) Send an email before the due date as a reminder.

c) Send an email the day after the due date, to ask if they’ve done it.

d) If the answer is anything but YES, repeat this procedure until the job is done.

4. Keep a scribbled note of any financial meetings. Don’t rely on the person who is supposed to be taking notes.

5. Years ago, I asked a Texan oil zillionaire what was the most useful financial tip he had ever been given. This is what he told me and I’m grateful.

Date notes. Date everything you write – top right-hand corner – and always include the year, which at the moment is 2014.

6. Always check your bank balance. Banks make errors.

I wrote this for the financial literacy course for 1st year university students in Newcastle.

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