The Social Distance Between Us: How Remote Politics Wrecked Britain

Darren McGarvey

The Judges said:

This dynamic, powerful and galvanising book about the state of the nations tells it as it is, then tells it like it could be.


Why are the rich getting richer while the poor only get poorer? How is it possible that in a wealthy, civilised democracy cruelty and inequality are perpetuated by our own public services? And how come, if all the best people are in all the top jobs, Britain is such an unmitigated bin fire? Writer, performer and activist Darren McGarvey takes us on a journey through a divided Britain in search of answers. Here, our latter-day Orwell exposes the true scale of Britain’s social ills and reveals why our current political class, those tasked with bringing solutions, are so distanced from our lived experience that they are the last people you’d want fighting your corner.

Published by Ebury Press

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Darren McGarvey, aka LOKI, grew up in Pollok. He is a writer, performer, community activist, columnist, and former rapper-in residence at Police Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit. He has presented eight programmes for BBC Scotland exploring the root causes of anti-social behaviour and social deprivation and delivered the 2022 BBC Reith Lecture on ‘Freedom from Want‘. His bestselling and acclaimed first book Poverty Safari was awarded the Orwell Prize.


A Brief Q& A with Darren McGarvey


At what age did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I never looked at it like an occupation. Writing was not something I did, it was something I lived. It was a compulsion. Family say I was often seen with a writing implement of some description from around age 5.


What was your favourite childhood book?

This is a very middle-class line of questioning. Books are not part of every childhood. I don’t remember books from my childhood. I remember public meetings. Protests. Rallies. I was not read to as a child, my family was more musical. I remember songs and albums. The artwork for the Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds double-vinyl. Listening to the Planets Symphony on cassette in the dark after getting the tape with an astronomy magazine. Bands like Crowded House, Fleetwood Mac, artists like Alanis Morrissette, who my parents listened to.


Which is your favourite book of recent years?

A toss-up between Chris Hedges America: The Farewell Tour and Cash Not Care by Mo Stewart – a forensic look at the disaster of Welfare Reform written by a disability campaigner.


What three books would you take to your Desert Island?


I’d probably take a couple of autobiographies if I was being forced to take books. They are a little less grim than the sort of stuff I have to read for work. Hustle Harder by 50 Cent – he’s a really interesting and intelligent guy who is undervalued culturally because he is black and has a violent past. Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger – the story of an immigrant who nobody believed in is the ultimate antidote to self-doubt. And probably I’d have to take a recovery-themed book, or I may end up going a little mad.


What is your ‘if you don’t like this, you can’t be my friend’ book?

The Communist Manifesto


Who or what have been your most important influences?

Anyone who ever saw in me some talent or potential I could not see in myself. Also, George Carlin.


Which of the other Rathbones Folio Prize shortlisted titles are you most excited to read?

I don’t get excited to read. I have A.D.D so reading takes a lot of effort and patience. When people talk about reading for pleasure, it confuses me. I feel about reading what most people feel about doing dishes – it’s rewarding once its over but its hard to start and often a slog to finish. That said, The Escape Artist sounds really interesting.