As a life-long admirer of Joni Mitchell I really enjoyed Kate Mossman’s interview (The Critics, 7 January) with Cary Raditz – the subject of Mitchell’s song “Carey”. I’ve always found it symptomatic of the insular world of popular music that while Mitchell was writing her songs in Matala, Crete, she was next door to Phaistos, one of the premier sites of the amazing Minoan civilisation (approximately 1,800 BCE).
One distinctive feature of Minoan culture is its marvellous “natural” art: flowers, octopuses, starfish, dolphins and multicoloured, patterned pottery. Women are portrayed dressed in finery, with long dark hair and jewellery – the prominent members of an audience in a theatre. Priestesses performed ecstatic dances as if in search of a higher consciousness.
In short, it was an ancient culture that mirrored the new hippy world of Mitchell and Raditz. But, of course, I am not sure how this might compare to Mitchell’s “white linen” and “French cologne”!
Michael Moore, Loughton, Essex
Stephen Bush’s fear (Politics, 7 January) that tribalism will derail Liberal Democrat/Labour cooperation may be exaggerated. The support among constituency parties for proportional representation shown at last year’s Labour conference implies the acceptance of a future of deals and coalitions, as well as a recognition that (unless and until the SNP bubble bursts) Labour is extremely unlikely to gain an absolute majority of seats.
Philip Jones, Morden, Greater London
Stephen Bush has chosen a topic bound to be a favourite of columnists up until the next general election. But anyone concerned about the UK’s decrepit political culture should consider our archaic first-past-the-post voting system. How can Britain move forwards when, in some constituencies, the same party has won in every election since they were created in the 1830s?
Alan Story, Get PR Done!, Sheffield
Robert Halfon (The Critics, 7 January) argues that “the way to empower working people is to cut taxes”. That might help, but it depends on which taxes are cut. Yes, reverse the National Insurance increase; cut VAT on necessities; raise the income tax threshold. But providing “affordable housing and quality public services”, as he advocates, surely requires increases in taxes on higher incomes, wealth and profits.
Jenny Woodhouse, Bath
A new arrival
Katie Stallard’s article (Reporter at Large, 7 January) wove the powerful story of Peng Shuai into a novel analysis of the West’s hypocritical financial relationship with China. But my favourite part was the news that Stallard is joining the NS permanently.
Dave McElroy, Reading
Is it my shame to be the only reader to have solved all the clues of Anorak’s special double alphabetical Christmas puzzle (10 December) without managing to fit them into the grids provided? I suspect not.
Tony Benjamin, Bristol
Note: We apologise for the grid error in this puzzle, which made it impossible to fit in all the solutions. The correct answer grids can be viewed for free at newstatesman.com/magazine/christmas-special-7 Readers can also request a copy from firstname.lastname@example.org
Desert island disco
Pippa Bailey’s pick-me-up playlist (Deleted Scenes, 7 January) is like my own copying of a friend’s preparation for Desert Island Discs. My list always changes, with the exception of Lindisfarne’s “We Can Swing Together”, which, irrespective of the Geordie in me, I recommend to everyone.
Karl Brown, London N13
We reserve the right to edit letters
This article appears in the 12 Jan 2022 issue of the New Statesman, The age of economic rage