Letter of the Week

Foot: a profile in courage

My enduring memory of Michael Foot (Leader, 8 March) is when he came to support me when I stood as the Labour candidate in the semi-rural constituency of Colne Valley.

Fifteen Labour Party members faced 2,000 baying hunt supporters in Holmfirth as his car arrived in the town's car park. Photographers from all
the national daily papers were there, as were the TV cameras, but I begged him not to get out of the car because the pro-hunting mob were out for blood. They had smashed up the memorial gardens where Michael was to plant a cherry tree for a peace activist.

He said: "No! They must not win." He got out of the car and marched across the car park. He stopped outside a chemist and used his stick to point to a notice in the window: “New Prescription Charges".

Bemused, the hunt lobby stopped and a strange silence prevailed. Michael said: "That's what this election is about - the destruction of the NHS." Cameras caught the moment - and that became the message. If only we had such people in the Labour Party today I would never have left.
David Williams
Green councillor
Oxford City Council

Demure Derek

Derek Simpson misremembers our discussion (The Politics Interview, 8 March). Having had no replies to letters, I approached him at the 2008 TUC Congress: we had a perfectly amicable discussion in which he said it was Unite policy "not to talk to Tories". I pointed out that quite a few of his members supported us and it was hardly a very clever way of advancing members' interests to refuse to brief us about their concerns.

Derek did not tell me to "get lost". It seems that bullying is flavour of the month in the Labour movement but, I am sorry, I cannot accuse Derek of bullying, abuse, or even bad manners.
Richard Balfe
David Cameron's envoy to the trade union movement
London SW1

Foot's selflessness

I disagree with your assessment of Michael Foot (Leader, 8 March). Labour had all but imploded by the 1983 election. You could argue that Foot shouldered the inevitable hammering, retained a sense of the party's idealism and allowed Neil Kinnock to come in fresh and untainted by defeat - one of many selfless contributions made by Foot to the Labour Party.
Melvyn Bragg
London SE1

On Israel

Having correctly demanded public decency about Muslims and Islam (15 February), the NS keeps publishing John Pilger's feverish rhetoric against Jews and Zionism ("Listen to the heroes of Israel", 1 March). Pilger lambasts "the murderous, racist toll of Zionism" and approves Gilad Atzmon depicting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a recent essay as being "at the heart of the battle for a better world". Atzmon states: "Considering Zionism is a murderous, racist, expansionist ideology, it is natural to stress that people who are affiliated with Israel and Zionism must be removed immediately from any political, government, military or strategic posts and so on."

Nevertheless, Atzmon stresses that he doesn't mean Jews, unlike Pilger, who asserts "[Atzmon's] fellow Jews in western countries . . . whose influence is crucial, are still mostly silent . . . it renders them culpable should their silence persist". Pilger must know that Jews have extensive and bloody experience of their tiny number being collectively blamed for preventing the birth of a better world. In any other context, NS editors would recognise such claims of mass culpability as racist.
Mark Gardner
Community Security Trust
London NW4

Seeing is believing

Is Slavoj Žižek being serious? In his tendentious take on James Cameron's Avatar (The Critics, 8 March) he first struggles to drag the narrative device of attraction between the disabled human hero and one of the Na'avi into the realm of racism, by suggesting it demonstrates the director's belief that a less-than-perfect human specimen would be a "good enough" mate for a savage. More appalling even than this is his conclusion. After three pages of argument, he comes up with the startling insight that "the film [is] substituting for reality". Has he never been to the cinema before?
Karl Held

Tory telltales

How depressingly predictable that Peter Wilby's ten "cleverest Tories" all hail from Oxbridge (First Thoughts, 1 March). Perhaps it was unavoidable.
Russell Fraser
London NW5

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This article first appeared in the 15 March 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Falklands II