Letter of the week

Jackie Ashley ("What MPs can learn from Eddie Izzard", 10 December) blames politicians for the current ills of democratic politics. They have, she says, to relearn how to sound like human beings, to dare to be off-message occasionally. Yet in a different piece in the same issue ("The voice that can only croak"), she notes that when Oliver Letwin did exactly that in an interview with the NS a week earlier, he earned what Ashley describes as "a few adverse headlines".

Whenever a politician follows Ashley's advice and deviates even a teeny-weeny bit from the script, the press goes into a hysterical feeding frenzy. Every minor difference is presented as a "row" or a "split". Politicians cannot seriously be expected to change their behaviour until journalists grow up. Physician, heal thyself.

Philip Cowley
Department of Politics, University of Hull

This article first appeared in the 17 December 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The ignorance of the Islamophobes