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Joan Smith

Joan Smith

Known for her human rights activism and writing on subjects such as atheism and feminism, Joan Smith is a columnist, critic and novelist. An Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a regular contributor to BBC radio, she has written five detective novels, two of which have been filmed by the BBC. Her latest novel, What Will Survive, was published in June 2007.

Joan Smith: 'Cars' is a four-letter word...

Almost 20 years ago, when a group of professional women defied Saudi law and drove through the streets of Riyadh, the word "driver" started being used as an insult in that part of the world. I have some sympathy with those women, but I think it's time we started using the word with a curl of the lip in this country. British drivers – not all of them, but the ones who think it's their inalienable right to use their cars as much as they like – are among the most antisocial people on earth. Worse, they have political clout: last week, in the middle of a major oil crisis, they demanded that the Government do something about it and Gordon Brown felt he had to comply. He duly rounded on the Opec oil cartel, but that won't stop calls for him to cancel rises in fuel duty scheduled for autumn. After Crewe, Labour MPs are so terrified of losing their seats that they may well persuade him to do it.

Recently by Joan Smith

Joan Smith: A portly nation is no laughing matter

Sunday, 18 May 2008

A couple of weeks ago, on a station platform in the north of England, I counted at least four morbidly obese adults. One of them was a mother with a toddler, who was already showing the same tendency. So I wasn't surprised to discover last week that British children are near the top of a new table showing the extent of childhood obesity in 27 European countries. Scottish boys and girls are at number two, with a third weighing more than they should, while their English counterparts are not far behind; almost 30 per cent of English girls are overweight, putting them at number four in the table, while English boys are in sixth place.

Joan Smith: Success is no antidote to addiction

Sunday, 11 May 2008

When the police shot and killed a man in London on Tuesday evening, the news was greeted with disbelief. First, the siege happened in Chelsea, an affluent area of London. Second, the dead man was white and a barrister. Third – which got into headlines – he was an Oxford graduate. We have become used to hearing of black kids being shot in Kilburn or Brixton, but it just doesn't happen to people like Mark Saunders. Prosperous lawyers aren't supposed to become distraught and open fire across one of London's desirable squares; they're supposed to belong to the right clubs, make money and become QCs.

Joan Smith: Medusa, bitch, witch, mad cow, DemocRAT... Why does America hate Hillary Clinton so much?

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Hillary Clinton is a witch who eats babies. She is a modern-day Medusa who turns men to stone. She is a DemocRAT, with a rodent's body and long tail. She is a mad cow, spreading disease across the country. Hey guys, life's a bitch, so why vote for one? No, I haven't taken leave of my senses: I am simply repeating some of the most vitriolic attacks on a woman who has dared to run for the White House, prompting an outpouring of misogyny on a scale that brings to mind medieval witch-hunts. The amazing thing is not that Clinton is trailing Barack Obama, but the fact that she's doing so well.

Joan Smith: J K Rowling and the quest for fair pay

Sunday, 20 April 2008

When J K Rowling appeared in a district court in New York last week, something strange happened. In normal circumstances, Rowling is regarded as a thoroughly decent woman whose novels have provided pleasure to millions and who has, moreover, given a great deal of her wealth to good causes.

Joan Smith: Give thanks and praise for John McCain

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The man at the bar looked familiar, even before he started telling anyone who would listen how George W Bush had spent millions of dollars to prevent him becoming President of the US. It was more interesting than going to a lecture on the mating habits of Galapagos fauna, which was the only other entertainment available on a cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean, and it didn't take long to work out that our disgruntled fellow-passenger was the Arizona senator, John McCain.

Joan Smith: There are lies, damned lies and diary clashes

Sunday, 13 April 2008

The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, has a diary clash. The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, hasn't decided what he's doing that day. The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, never intended to be there anyway. With the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics less than four months away, 8 August 2008 is causing as much disarray among world leaders as the unwelcome discovery that a meteorite is hurtling towards us. How are they to react to this totally unexpected event, which has caused protests and threatens to call into question their commitment to human rights? Turn up and look shifty, following revelations that China has broken promises to improve its atrocious human rights record? Announce a boycott and risk the wrath of athletes and (in Brown's case) retaliatory action at the 2012 London games?

Joan Smith: What about those without any children?

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

If there is one piece of New Labour rhetoric which comes close to making me howl with rage, it is the phrase "hard-working families". Who are these people that Gordon Brown loves so much, parading them in his speeches at every opportunity?

Joan Smith: Civil partnerships could work for us all

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Last year a friend of mine went to a civil partnership ceremony for the first time. She liked it so much that she decided to book one for herself and her partner, with whom she's lived for several years. She rang the town hall, chose the date and everything seemed straightforward until the registrar asked for her partner's name. "You mean your partner's a man?" asked the incredulous official, and gently explained that civil partnerships are available only to same-sex couples.

Joan Smith: Medical advice is fine. But moral judgement is not

Thursday, 27 March 2008

For some time now, pregnant women have risked hostile stares if they drink the occasional glass of wine in public. Mothers-to-be are supposed to consider the health of their babies at all times, and the days when a pregnant woman could have a carefree night out with a few women friends and a bottle of wine are long gone; most lay people are aware of government advice to limit alcohol consumption during pregnancy, even if they don't know the guidelines in detail.

Joan Smith: Poisoning the planet is not my idea of sport

Sunday, 23 March 2008

During George Bush's first year in office, I boarded a boat to visit the Galapagos Islands. An American tourist looked familiar, and I soon realised he was Senator John McCain, who had come to look at one of the world's most fragile habitats. Now McCain is the Republican presidential candidate, and last week he popped in to Downing Street to discuss the world's most urgent problems, including climate change, with Gordon Brown.

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