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28 February 2024

Letter of the week: Independent perspective

Write to letters@newstatesman.co.uk to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

By New Statesman

Anoosh Chakelian dismisses my candidature quickly in the phrase, “a clutch of independents, representing single issues ranging from justice for grooming victims to Just Stop Oil” (Cover Story, 23 February), but in so doing we miss out on the perspective of the outsider. I am one who, finding mainstream politics silent on the projected death of millions and the collapse of civilisation, has taken the route of civil resistance –  arrested and imprisoned with Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil. When my MP dies and I stand for parliament, I find democracy fails me again, this time by journalists who are themselves trapped in the old paradigm, reporting only on the established parties that have failed us so well in the past.
Reverend Mark Coleman, Rochdale

Foreign Secretary’s Questions

I was not surprised by David Cameron’s return to front-line politics. His resignation speech as prime minister implied that he would like to serve again if asked. As your Leader (23 February) said, Cameron does not now have to contend with home affairs. Critically, he possesses guile and awareness of international events. However, his sympathy with the Palestinians sits awkwardly with Rishi Sunak’s support of Israel. With Cameron’s stay in the Foreign Office likely to be short, it will be interesting to see if Labour’s likely future foreign secretary, David Lammy, will build on Cameron’s work or follow a different line.
David Rimmer, Hertford Heath

Don’t do nothing

When Bruno Maçães writes “defiance is intolerable for a regime” such as Vladimir Putin’s (Newsmaker, 23 February) because it “suggests that the ruler is weaker than it seems, not to be feared”, it is as if Maçães has tapped into Alexei Navalny’s thoughts. In the eponymous 2022 documentary about him, Navalny says: “If they decide to kill me, it means that we are incredibly strong. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good people to do nothing. So don’t do nothing.”
David Murray, Wallington, Surrey

Keirpolitik

John Gray derides Keir Starmer’s Labour (These Times, 23 February) and asks what can be expected of these “left-wing Conservatives”. Given the conservative nature of the British electorate, surely this pragmatic approach is smart, at least in the short term. I suspect and hope that the people who make up the engine room of any future Labour government have bigger aims.

Labour’s first job is to win back the trust of previously undecided people who could give them their precious vote. Only then can Labour embark on the long journey of reconstruction of the British state that will persuade people of the value (and values) of an inclusive welfare-state-based compassion for the wider community.
Mark Thorp, Manchester

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What is to be done?

Wolfgang Münchau (Lateral View, 23 February) skewers the West’s overconfident and now-faltering response to Putin in Ukraine. But he is surely too optimistic about the route to a negotiated peace and Ukraine joining the EU and Nato. 

Russia has a well-known history of sustaining horrific military losses before using its huge population and resources to win ultimate victory. Ukraine’s defeat this year is now at least as likely as a peace deal. Even if one is made, any idea of Nato membership for Ukraine could be blocked by a returning Donald Trump, a dominant Putin’s peace terms, or Russian sympathisers within the alliance. With the EU and US public losing interest, trying to fund a defensive war would most likely only lead to an isolated and bankrupt Ukraine.

The West faces a stark strategic choice: either pour arms and funding into Ukraine now to disrupt Putin, or prepare for a Russian victory and new world order.
Bruce Robert, Brighton

Debate on Israel

Hannah Barnes’s column (Out of the Ordinary, 23 February) reflects on anti-Semitism in Britain today and the steep increase in incidents, especially since 7 October. This is a terrible and shameful indictment of our society. Our Jewish fellow citizens should not have to live in fear.

However, anti-Semitism cannot be overcome by prolonging a basic misconception underlying the public debate. A big part of the problem lies in the widely used definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism. In May 2016 the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance produced a non-legally-binding working definition that reasonably called it “hatred towards Jews” because they are Jews, in all its manifestations – that is until “targeting the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity” was added to the list of examples of anti-Semitic behaviour. We need a public debate about this, especially in light of recent months.
Ursula Haeckel, Liverpool

Rhapsody in raindrops

Readers’ insightful comments in praise of George Gershwin (Correspondence, 9 February) call to mind an occasion in the 1980s when an American tourist went up to Don Lowes at the piano in the Royal Garden Hotel to show off his music industry connections: “I’m a personal friend of George Bacharach!” To which Don replied: “I’m a personal friend of Burt Gershwin!”

Don dined out on this put-down until he died, and I’ve done the same ever since.
Trevor Lyttleton, London NW11

Flower power

Thank you, Alice Vincent, for appreciating the humble snowdrop (Gardening, 23 February). They have been a sign of hope to me since I was a child poring over Cicely Mary Barker’s The Book of Flower Fairies. Now approaching 80, I still have the book, its pages stained where I pressed wild flowers.
Julia Coyne, London N4

72 years later…

I am 100 years old and have four sons and nine grandchildren. Recently, one son asked when I first published anything. I recalled having a letter published in the New Statesman in early 1952. He managed to get a facsimile of the February 1952 magazine and saw my name on the front page among other letter-writers. I have always admired the way in which your magazine combines both the political and cultural together.
Jack Dale, York

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[See also: Letter of the week: Treated like royalty]

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This article appears in the 28 Feb 2024 issue of the New Statesman, The QE Theory of Everything

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
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