Letter of the week

I was shocked at the scurrilous response of so many of your readers (Letters, 30 March) to the Alastair Campbell guest editorship of the New Statesman, and would like to try to redress the balance.

One read: “I am a relatively new subscriber . . . but after the latest issue I feel I may need to cancel it in disgust.” My own subscription extends to around 25 years and my reading of your journal at least double that period, so I believe I am in a position to evaluate the ongoing contribution of the “Staggers” to the wider labour movement. There are occasions when I would question the judgement of some editorial, but overall I am happy with the content of the NS pages and look forward to it with the same excited anticipation as I did half a century ago.

To illustrate the shallow nature of the letters appearing in last week’s issue, I will deal with just two. The first relates to the Tony Blair piece. As an atheist, I see little to justify the ex-PM’s contribution but as it is apparently the first of a “new occasional column”, surely balance can come in future articles.

As for the person who wrote “I do not want the musings of an ageing football manager”, he must be aware that in his editorial AC said that “sport can learn much from politics. Politics can equally learn from sport.” In the case of Alex Ferguson, we have the most successful ever (Scots) manager of an English club, and one whose proven track record in man-management is matched only by the way he is able to outguess his peers. So his “ageing” doesn’t appear to be hindering him in these successes.

It is easy to criticise the way in which we entered the Iraq War. With 100,000 others in Glasgow, I marched to protest against the impending invasion in 2003 and wrote to my MP 12 times before hostilities began (he says it was 14). I wonder how many of your letter writers acted similarly.

Bill Wilde

Eaglesham, Renfrewshire

Roger responds

Janet Mansfield (Letters, 30 March) quite rightly takes me to task for the appallingly facetious and disrespectful tone of my footling remarks about public services and education in the Alastair Campbell issue. In a tiny fraction of self-defence, I thought it was a simple survey about where editors were educated, and I had no idea that my unpunctuated nonsense would be published verbatim. But that is no excuse. Both my parents were teachers and I am constantly knocked out by the quality, industry and inspiration of most of the profession.

I am very sorry for the rubbishy nature of what I said and the offence I may have caused. My observation about “widescreen TVs” was simply to point out that there is sometimes more to spending choices than meets the eye, and I still think that is true.

Roger Alton

Editor, the Independent

London E14

Be my guest

I presume that there will be not a few people who will vehemently disagree with the decision to

let Alastair Campbell run amok (23 March), but it was a truly inspired idea. For once, we had an edition packed full of Labour supporters saying positive things about the government and clearly demonstrating the dangers of a Tory administration. No doubt the Trots will have heart seizure, but then they would rather Labour remain pure in ideology and completely irrelevant to working people. A terrific tonic.

Simon Horne

London N8

Three cheers for your readers’ letters protesting against your guest editor for 23 March, Alastair Campbell. If you had put Campbell and Tony Blair on the cover, I

would not have bothered even to open the magazine, but dropped it immediately in the rubbish bin.

Who will your next guest editor be – George W Bush? Why do you need guest editors? Can

the present editor not do his job properly?

Freny Olbrich

Via email

Summers of love

Both Dominic Sandbrook’s essay on football in the Seventies (30 March) and the Red Riding series recently on TV paint a bleak and frankly inaccurate picture of life for most of us in that glorious decade.

With higher wages for the working classes, access to affordable housing, free health care, free higher education and

low levels of crime, all in a much less unequal society, life then was superior to life as experienced

by most of us today. In 1976,

I was a fully funded sociology undergraduate on a new parkland campus. I had a lovely girlfriend,

a motorbike, hair down to my armpits, Neil Young on the stereo. And it was a glorious summer. Bleak? It was bloody marvellous!

John Robertson

Ayr, Ayrshire

Dominic Sandbrook notes Brian Clough’s fondness for cases of champagne, but give Old Big Head his due. Clough was later known for his tireless work on behalf of healthy, high-fibre breakfast cereals, two brands of which he went on to advertise on television.

Florence Maddison

Via email

This article first appeared in the 06 April 2009 issue of the New Statesman, God special issue