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30 October 2019updated 07 Sep 2021 11:30am

LETTER OF THE WEEK Best of a bad bunch

By New Statesman

Thank you for Martin Fletcher’s excellent, evocative column on the People’s Vote march in London on 19 October (Another Voice, 25 October). It captures the zeitgeist beautifully.

However, the conclusion that the marchers who would usually vote Conservative will not do so again is not necessarily correct. Given the paucity of credible alternatives available even to those of us who are not Conservative voters, it may seem to disillusioned Tories that their previous party of choice still represents the least bad option.

What a dreadful state of affairs that is for all of us.

Andy Leslie
Horsham, West Sussex

Gray areas

John Gray’s article “Politics and the art of war” (25 October) misses out some obvious and uncomfortable facts.

Nowhere does he mention that there was a general election in 2017 after the referendum, so MPs from the anti-Brexit parties have a democratic mandate. Labour only agreed to support a Brexit that passed certain tests: it has a mandate for not supporting deals if they fail those tests. It is the duty of the opposition not to support laws it does not agree with.

Gray conveniently ignores the lies of the Leave campaign: that millions of Turks would come to the UK when Turkey joined the EU in 2020; that leaving the EU would free up £350m a week for the NHS; that the DUP used Northern Irish campaign rules to spend untraceable money on adverts in newspapers in Britain.

Gray dismisses the idea of a confirmatory referendum as “rigged” – but what would be fairer than putting forward for public approval the deal devised by Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove, the leaders of the Leave campaign?

Bill Bryant
London N7

John Gray refers to the EU referendum as “a clear democratic mandate”. Are referendums in a country that has limited experience of them really democratic? Has Gray ever taken account of the views of John Morley, the Victorian follower of John Stuart Mill? In his Recollections, Morley wrote presciently: “Was the Mother of Parliaments to slay offspring of such worldwide renown by the foreign device of special Referendum as any vital disputes arose, away from parliament and above it?”

As both Aristotle and Hobbes saw, politics exists to prevent revolution and the warfare to which revolution always leads. If only David Cameron had read Morley.

Edward Greenwood

Which Remainers?

The juxtaposition of the contributions by Martin Fletcher and John Gray in this week’s issue (“The broken state”, 25 October) was either a stroke of editorial inspiration or an ironic coincidence. The former could almost have been commissioned to illustrate one of the themes in Gray’s piece: the refusal by centrists to accept any responsibility for the rise of populism. It should be ascribed to the unthinking conflation of the EU with all that is good and true – the view held by the “moderate, tolerant, compassionate, law-abiding, peace-loving citizens” that Fletcher joined on the march against Brexit. One wonders
if your contributors ever compare notes!

Richard Aspin
London W4

In describing Brexit Remainers in the current NS, Martin Fletcher and John Gray seemed to be in two different universes. Gray refers to “the Remainer elite”; Fletcher describes a million diverse individuals visible on the streets of London on 19 October. As one of the immense crowd at the People’s Vote march, I know which is more accurate.

M Greenwood
Barking, Greater London

Ayers rocked

I was surprised and delighted to read Kate Mossman’s column on the late, wonderful Kevin Ayers (Access All Areas, 25 October). Like Kate, I also interviewed him as a young journalist. Unlike Kate, it was in 1974 and Kevin had just released his fifth solo album, The Confessions of Dr Dream and Other Stories.

Kevin was on his houseboat in France while I was on the other end of a telephone in Stockport; he was French-speaking and knew a great deal about wine.

Years later I attended a Q&A in Hay-on-Wye involving Robert Wyatt, Ayers’s former Soft Machine bandmate. Wyatt revealed that the pair had been talking about a musical reunion. Sadly, this never happened. But at least we have his marvellous legacy.

Bill Haworth
Adlington, Lancashire

Ride in the Ridings

“Giving somebody a cog” was the expression we used for pillion riding on a bicycle in Dewsbury and Batley as well as in Sean Burnside’s South Yorkshire (Correspondence, 25 October). The phrase never puzzled me: in my mind it referred to the rider necessarily standing on the pedals (front cog) with the passenger occupying the saddle. Most rear cogs would ride with their legs stuck out, but some would rest their feet on the short axel stubs.

Stephen Kelly
Dewsbury, West Yorkshire

Heartfelt thanks to Sean Burnside for reminding me about “giving somebody a cog”. I had totally forgotten the expression, even though it was part of the everyday lingo when I lived in Doncaster. It was especially gratifying to be able to introduce it to my Kentish husband. Having known him for more than 30 years, I thought I’d exhausted my supply of words he thought didn’t really exist.

Margaret Lowndes
Richmond, North Yorkshire

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