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26 September 2018

Letter of the week: McDonnell’s vision

A selection of the best letters received from our readers this week. Email to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

By New Statesman

Stephen Bush asks what John McDonnell is up to, concluding that he is safeguarding the Corbynite revolution from withering when Jeremy Corbyn “leaves the stage”(Politics, 21 September). Bravo. At last, a proactive Labour visionary.

Too often, Labour has snatched defeat from looming victory – Michael Foot’s coat, Neil Kinnock’s fateful Sheffield Rally, the festering Blair-Brown boil, the union barons’ fatal choice of Ed over David Miliband. Even Corbyn’s shock “success” in the 2017 election with a 9.4 per cent swing failed to achieve a Labour government when his party could and should have trounced the lame-duck Tories. Myopia rules too often for Labour. If the party is soon to face a terminally weakened Theresa May after the Salzburg savaging over Brexit, McDonnell is absolutely right to act. The crucial issue is effective management, and McDonnell as project manager makes absolute sense.

Keith Jago

No-frills school

The free market in education in England is proving to have unexpected and uncontrollable consequences, not least of which are opportunities for politically motivated individuals to turn a quick profit. Is it possible to educate a child for £2,700 a year (First Thoughts, 21 September)? It depends what you mean by “educate” but the market is not concerned with such niceties. James Tooley, professor of education at Newcastle University, clearly thinks that what children need can be pared down, starting with the “frills” of physical education and sport. A broad and balanced curriculum in which all children can and are encouraged to participate? Forget it.

Dr Robin C Richmond
Bromyard, Herefordshire

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Social beings

I’m not sure I agree with Jonathan Rutherford (“The unstoppable rise of the bourgeois left”, 21 September) that “cosmopolitan liberalism” (which I certainly identify with) is the root of quite so many evils. It’s basically a child of the Enlightenment and as such is infused with the conviction that in rational thought can be found the solution to many of humanity’s problems.

I tend to agree with him that “human social being” begins in “love and relationships of family and home, in culture, and in economic relations”. Given that, Labour needs to work out what has gone wrong and what solutions are possible.

Many are obvious, such as measures to curb the increasing precariousness of employment and the neglect of children that results from a system which forces both parents to work. Others might be less easy. If you take Labour’s housing policy as an example, it gets lost in a checklist of clever policy changes, but loses sight of the main aim, which should surely be to ensure that every family has secure and decent housing. That should be paragraph one, with a time limit (say, by the end of the first Labour parliament). To further that aim, the means would be: whatever it takes (most voters would not be interested in the technical details).

In every case the aim would be to reinforce human social being; the means, whatever it takes; if dismantling some aspect of capitalism is what is required, so be it; but dismantling capitalism is not the aim.

Jeremy Cushing

Not wishing to dumb things down but an article about the working class that uses phrases such as “a technocratic Benthamism in the Fabian tradition” and “Nietzschean conception of acceleration” would appear, in my experience, to be part of the problem of a bourgeois left, not a solution!

Kevin Cawser
Via email

Jonathan Rutherford believes that the rise of cosmopolitan liberalism has led to “solidarities” being replaced by “a narcissistic preoccupation of the self”. Someone should devise a robust “Narcissism Index” that is able to track the peaks and troughs of this pervasive phenomenon.  Intuition would suggest it will be significantly higher in metropolitan areas (such as north London) than in “left behind” towns (such as Merthyr and Mansfield), which have a much smaller new middle class.

Ivor Morgan

Just in time

In his Spotlight comments (14 September), Jack Dromey claims that “just in time” supply chains for the motor industry would become impossible without an EU customs union. The claim is unsound. In 1970, I was responsible for three return trainloads daily moving components between Ford plants in the UK and Europe. The movements were seamless. Those with experience of how to go about such arrangements are all over 70 years old, and happy to advise if asked.

James Anderson

Complex martyr

If David Morris (Correspondence, 21 September) would care to look again at my review of Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Cromwell book (The Critics, 7 September), he will see that Robert Bolt’s depiction of Thomas More as “a martyr for liberal freedoms” is in fact described as a “seductive anachronism” – ie I don’t think it’s true.

Rowan Williams
Via email

More Statesman

Although a Guardian subscriber I laughed out loud at the last line of your Leader (21 September).

As a keen liberal Remainer,  I take the paper version of the Guardian, and am not so much bored as irritated by some silly opinion writers. Any chance of a daily New Statesman?

Anthony Garrett
Falkland, Fife

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This article appears in the 26 Sep 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Tory Brexit crisis