Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch.: Author Hattersley reveals the virtue of England

England's great virtue is its diversity, according to former MP Lord Hattersley.

The Labour politician-turned-writer, who was born in Sheffield, is quite sure of his own nationality: "I'm not a Brit, or a citizen of the UK, but an Englishman," he told the audience at yesterday's Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch.

"We're not a country that makes a big fuss about ourselves but we know we have values. We're different from everyone else in Europe. Where else can you go where the temperature changes so drastically from mile to mile?"

Mr Hattersley, now a successful columnist and author, was speaking about his 21st book – In Search of England.

A celebration of landscape, life, humour and habits, he said much of the book also focused on what was wonderful about life outside London.

"Dr Johnson said that when a man was tired of London, he was tired of life," said Mr Hattersley.

"But when I finished as an MP, I couldn't wait to get out. Yes, this book is biased – it might be called In Search of England but it's written in praise of the North."

Around 250 people packed into Pavilions of Harrogate to hear yesterday's authors, who also included Michael Dobbs of House of Cards fame.

He explained how he started writing by accident while holidaying on Malta in 1987.

"We'd grabbed a best-seller at the airport and my wife began to read it first," he recalled. "After 10 pages, she closed the book and handed it to me, saying it was rubbish. I read it, and it got worse and worse. The bond of trust an author has with his readers is very special, and this one took it for granted.

"I was so cross. That evening, I started scribbling what eventually turned into House of Cards." Mr Dobbs' latest book, The Reluctant Hero, is the third to feature politician Harry Jones.

The third speaker was Lesley Pearse, who talked about her newest novel, Stolen.

"I was in Sussex and saw what I was sure was a body on the beach," she said. "It turned out to be an old sleeping bag – but Stolen starts with a half-drowned girl being found on a beach, and that's where the idea came from."