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2 July 2024

Letter of the week: Missions without omission

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By New Statesman

Finn McRedmond draws welcome attention to Westminster’s lack of serious interest in Northern Ireland (Lines of Dissent, 28 June). Labour has a chance to correct this. In the late Sixties its sister, the Northern Ireland Labour Party, offering non-sectarian social and economic policies, drew increasing cross-community support. The Troubles blew this progressive development away, and the Labour Party turned its back. It still does, refusing to let its members in Northern Ireland put up candidates at any electoral level. Labour’s excuse is that it must be even-handed between communities. A party aspiring to govern the whole UK should offer its policies to all our citizens and shed this neo-colonial, outdated, orange vs green perspective.
Tom Wylie, Oxford

Luminary Lammy

I must confess I was moved by Jason Cowley’s piece about and with David Lammy (Cover Story, 28 June). Perhaps, after all, we are not doomed to be on the butter slide to Naipaulian despair.

David Lammy was a chorister at the King’s School Peterborough – something that, he says, taught him a sense of discipline and the need for compromise (no choir, however good, is ever totally spot on). It also introduced him, as a young, black boy of Caribbean descent, to the irresistible beauties of the Anglican choral tradition and, with it, a sense of the global nature of culture.
David Perry, Cambridge

I read with interest of David Lammy’s efforts to forge links with right-wing Republican senators and his “friend” JD Vance. It is understandable that Lammy would need to be able to reach out to people with very different political ideas. However, the article focuses mostly on politicians in the Washington Beltway. Lammy also rightly wants to reset the UK’s relations with Europe, so it would be interesting to hear if he is equally reaching out to European politicians, including to “friends” in the Brothers of Italy or France’s National Rally?
Hans Weenink, Edinburgh

Centre points

Your editorial endorsing Labour (Leader, 28 June) is wise. I, too, wouldn’t have endorsed a Labour vote in 2019, owing to the party’s far-left anti-Semitism and dismay at the then leader’s attitudes towards Russia and Nato. Now, though, Labour really does appear to have changed to become the only party (other than the Liberal Democrats, which people should tactically vote for in dozens of seats) that is remotely close to the sensible, moderate centre. The Tories, by contrast, have done what Labour did in 2015 and tilted to the extreme, as a Reform-chasing, populist party of the right. Those on the left, centre left and centre right, and in the centre, should, I feel, vote Labour or Lib Dem to finally help turn Britain around.
Sebastian Monblat, London SE14

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Grammar lapse

Keir Starmer is said “to distinguish himself from the privately educated elites far removed from the majority of the people they govern” (Correspondence, 21 June). Yet Wikipedia says his grammar school became private while he was a pupil – though thanks to bursaries, his family did not pay fees.
Priscilla Alderson, University College London

Metropolitan man

Philip Norman rightly laments the rise of anti-Semitism following his trip to Golders Green (Diary, 28 June). Yet, the “towering Afro-Caribbean man” he encounters at the Tube station has either “converted” to Judaism or “adopted” the yarmulke out of respect for the community. Is it not possible that this gentleman, a denizen of the city, was born to a Jewish family? 
George Thomson, London N4

Managing migration

I read the words of Christopher Clayton (Correspondence, 21 June) with profound unease. There are legitimate arguments on both sides, but we should be focusing on whether large reductions in immigration levels are even possible in today’s world. The pressures behind immigration are great and growing, but they are shadow of the conditions the world will face when climate change makes large parts of Africa and Asia uninhabitable. Politicians promote policies that, they say, will control future immigration, but it will never be possible to reduce immigration significantly. We should be talking about how to manage migration pressures, and abandon the fantasy that we can reduce them.
Richard Williams, Hove

The limits of learning

While having considerable sympathy for Anthony Seldon’s view of the education needed for the second quarter of the 21st century (Cover Story, 21 June), for Graham Johnston’s support for a revived cultural space and for Stephen Kelly’s developmental emphasis (Correspondence, 28 June), I must invoke a realistic perspective. The arts and creativity have never, unfortunately, been central to education. I also cannot endorse the worthy but idealistic notion that reinstating them will save our country. Such unrealistic claims have always been the bane of education and the source of so much dissatisfaction with its limited impact.
Professor Colin Richards, Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Pension altruism

Will Dunn’s brilliant observation that over a million people do not need a state pension as they have much larger private pensions should not be allowed to disappear without trace (Money Matters, 21 June). No government would impose this as it would be “political suicide” – but why doesn’t someone assess how many in this position might voluntarily stop drawing a state pension to help rebuild a broken Britain?
Francis Creed, Sheffield

Rest assured

So many mighty and urgent topics to worry about in last week’s issue – and I include the absence of Nicholas Lezard. I do hope he is not poorly or has run out of money, preventing him from filing. We need him.
Penny Kerfoot, Cheshire

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[See also: Letter of the week: How a nation sees itself]

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This article appears in the 02 Jul 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Labour’s Britain