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14 February 2024

Letter of the week: Treated like royalty

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Will Lloyd writes of the king and suffering (Newsmaker, 9 February). In 2022 my ribs were jacked apart so that surgeons could remove a tumour and about 40 per cent of my right lung. This was followed by nursing care, recovery from surgery, physiotherapy, four months of chemo and continuing monitoring with CT scans and meetings with an oncologist.

One of the upsides of cancer is that you get to meet brilliant, inspiring people working with dedication and love in conditions that most people would find intolerable. The King has no experience of what cancer is like for most of his subjects. That would only happen if he were to take his turn for treatment on an NHS waiting list.
David Cato-Evans, London N8

Caution to the wind

“Britain’s ailing body politic” was an apt heading for your Leader (9 February), but not only for the reasons you gave. The discussions on which party stands to gain or lose from Labour’s U-turn on its £28bn pledge will strike us as academic when the enormity of climate change is realised. Where are the leaders with the courage to tell us we are on track to reach 2.4°C of warming even if current pledges are met?  On the same day, it was announced that last year was the warmest on record and we have reached 1.5°C of warming. The cautious approach is reckless indeed.
Marilyn Spurr, Exeter

Bring on boring

I thought the contributions from Andrew Marr (Politics) and Steve Richards (Diary, 9 February) coalesced nicely, with the latter stating that no, Keir Starmer is not boring – he just has a laser-like focus on the election ahead. I am bored with “personality” politicians. This country is in need of stability and economic competence and if that is considered boring, bring it on.

Starmer can see the prize ahead but knows there could be many pitfalls, so his determination to see the bigger picture is commendable. Although, as Marr states, political journalists might have difficulty lambasting the putative future government, I am sure we will manage to be critical friends and at least it will be less pyrotechnic and self-defeating than the tumultuous past 14 years.
Judith A Daniels, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

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Western conceits

I am increasingly concerned about the number of articles in the New Statesman painting “the West” or “Western liberals” into a corner. Who are these “Western liberals”? Often they are also referred to as liberal elites, Democrats in the context of the US, and a whole assortment of other groups and people who probably wouldn’t recognise themselves by this description. In his latest piece, John Gray (These Times, 9 February) accuses them of weaponising the legal system against Trump – to no good effect – and describes this as pathological.

I would argue that using the legal system to hold those in power to account for their lawbreaking is not pathological. That the attempt hasn’t worked says something about the pathology of a society that has lost its trust in information and analysis in favour of fake news. Holding the “liberal West” accountable for this by utilising far-right terminology such as “illegal aliens” plays into that narrative. People are never illegal and never aliens. We need to find a way of keeping our moral compass intact and using the instruments of democracy – including the law – to change the narrative.
Martina Weitsch, York

Devout but edged out

Hannah Barnes suggests (Out of the Ordinary, 9 February) that when parents pretend to be devout in order to secure the best school places, “no one gets hurt”. I disagree. Such behaviour means fewer places for less privileged children – children who therefore end up in less high-achieving schools. Those schools tend to have greater staff turnover; fewer facilities; worse budget shortfalls, because funding levels track student numbers; and poorer parent associations, less able to provide top-up funds. In short, the pretend-devout parents entrench their own privilege at the expense of the less fortunate. Or less ruthless.
Joel Donovan KC, London W4

Where there is despair

I name Jacob Rees-Mogg, Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates (The NS Interview, 9 February) as MPs who claim to be guided by their Christian principles. However, speaking as one raised in a churchgoing household, I find it impossible to reconcile many of their views with any Christian doctrine that I recognise. Do these people believe that Jesus Christ as portrayed in the gospels would support the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda? I rather think he would be kneeling to wash their feet, and instructing his followers to do likewise.
Roger King, Fordingbridge, Hampshire

Green shoots of renewal

Having moved to Barnsley in 2019, I can’t help but draw parallels between the closure of the Port Talbot plant and the deindustrialisation of the area I now call home. The steel factory is an industrial life support for many workers, just as the veins of coal running deep under South Yorkshire were the lifeblood for Barnsley. The latter was cut thanks to cheaper coal and cleaner, more efficient energy, and now Port Talbot faces the same fate. Just as Barnsley saw, job losses and deprivation could feed in to the darker underbelly of human nature.

I am hopeful, however. A Labour Council in Barnsley has regenerated the town, jobs have been created, and it is now a place where people from across South Yorkshire visit. If Labour’s green policy comes to fruition, I have hope that Port Talbot, like Barnsley, can rebuild itself in the face of adversity – as long as the money is invested in the right way and jobs are created to replace those tossed on the slag heap.
Andrew Wells, Barnsley, South Yorkshire

Cover aversion

Kate Mossman in “Joni Mitchell’s joyful return” (The Critics, 9 February) describes Joni Mitchell’s 2000 album Both Sides Now as a “collection of her own songs reworked with an orchestra”. In fact, only two of the 12 songs on the album are hers; the rest are from the Great American Songbook, such as “Comes Love” and “Don’t Go to Strangers”. The two that are hers (“A Case of You” and “Both Sides Now”) are pretty damned good, though.
Gerwyn Moseley, Gilwern, Wales

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This article appears in the 14 Feb 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Trouble in Toryland