Letter of the week

Tristram Hunt's comparing of Oliver Cromwell to the Taliban ("Britain's very own Taliban", 17-31 December) is utterly grotesque. Rather than total repression under Cromwell, there was more religious and political toleration and debate than England had ever seen. In religion, Cromwell looked for the widest possible kind of national church. "I had rather," he said, "that Mohammadanism were permitted amongst us than that one of God's children should be persecuted." The Jews were allowed to return to England.

Cromwell's influence was decisive in setting England on the path of representative government. Anyone who abolished both the House of Lords and the monarchy cannot simply be dismissed as a conservative. Culturally, the picture of Puritans as soulless killjoys has been utterly discredited. Cromwell was a great lover of English chamber music and delighted in boys' voices singing "Latin Motets". This was the man who had Milton in his government, for goodness sake. Cromwell had an affectionate nature and a boisterous humour. The great blot on his record certainly was Ireland - toleration did not extend to Roman Catholics.

To argue that Tony Blair might prefer Charles I to Cromwell, might prefer a king who was a believer in absolute monarchy and whose lying and duplicity had an immense cost in human blood, would suggest there is even more wrong with new Labour than we had imagined. I would still prefer the "Good Old Cause".

Reverend Martin Camroux
Cheam, Surrey