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25 May 2022

Letter of the week: The party of levelling up

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By New Statesman

Andrew Marr (Politics, 20 May) bids Labour to think about a “modern federal Britain” and pick up “the boldest of Tory ideas about local regeneration” to radically redistribute power and level up the UK. Yet to do both requires a huge investment of political resources with uncertain consequences.

It appears that Labour intends to promise more devolution within proposals for a federal constitution while the Tories are pursuing economic levelling up as an alternative national mission. Labour politicians are increasingly realising they may have made the wrong choice. A blueprint for a stable federalism is extremely hard to achieve. England does not want to regionalise and a unitary England that is perceived to dominate a federal UK is a Celtic separatist’s dream. There is a cold logic to Boris Johnson recognising that reducing territorial economic inequalities taps in to the interests of the dispossessed. Labour’s politics, of course, align more naturally with this mission. Perhaps it’s time for it to focus on fashioning a more compelling version of state-wide, devolved and locally led levelling up.
Jonathan Bradbury, Cardiff

Right to vote

Andrew Marr (Politics, 20 May) is right to say that the “right people, the voters” need to see electoral reform and constitutional change as a top priority before any changes are likely to occur. This is also true for many issues that never get to the top of the list such as tackling poverty, introducing a land or wealth tax, and universal basic income.

This is because the people who would most benefit from these radical changes never set the agenda, and hear nothing in the mainstream media about the benefits of tackling these issues. We all have a role to play in changing this in asking questions of our elected representatives. We, the voters, must force the change.
Ruth Potter, Stamford Bridge, East Riding

If, as Andrew Marr writes, Michael Gove is serious about getting the House of Lords out of London, a simple solution is at hand. Twenty-six Church of England bishops and archbishops sit in the Lords as Lords Spiritual. Most of them spend at least one or two weeks a year at Westminster as “duty bishop”, and each of them has a more or less capacious cathedral. Let the Lords go to the bishops rather than the bishops to the Lords, and you have a genuinely peripatetic chamber.
Andrew Connell, Cardiff

The partygate party

I agree with Martin Fletcher (Another Voice, 20 May) that this government is only interested in survival. But I also think now even ardent Conservative grass-roots members must be wincing at the populist modus operandi of their party’s leaders and toadying acolytes in the cabinet. This is not a Conservatism I recognise; it’s one where ministers appear to delight in trashing norms and upending legal agreements. And the public are still appalled by partygate. Love it or loathe it, this party once had a certain moral compass, which has now been completely mislaid.
Judith A Daniels, Cobholm, Norfolk

Commons resurrected

I was glad to see Kevin Maguire (Commons Confidential, 20 May) back in the print magazine. I hope it is not a fleeting visit. Given that many MPs are increasingly failing to clear a very low bar in terms of competence and probity, having Kevin back on the case, publishing the absurd goings on in Westminster, is a good thing.
Jeff Howells, London SW16

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Nato’s priorities

It is a pity Adam Tooze chose not to highlight the futility of Sweden and Finland joining Nato (Cover Story, 20 May). Sweden and Finland are welcome to join, but when it comes to it the US will not go beyond Nato’s apparent objective, which since 1989 has been not to protect Russia’s neighbours, but to prevent the reconstitution of the former Soviet Union.
Randhir Singh Bains, Gants Hill, Essex

Early in April the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) sixth assessment report warned that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 to give the world a chance of limiting future heating to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels; still a possibility, it says, and at a cost of just a few per cent of global GDP by mid-century. But only provided the right actions are undertaken extremely urgently.

Yet in his cover story Adam Tooze relegates “the Green Deal” to sit alongside other security commitments such as defence spending or “digital investment programmes”. These are steps that don’t sound like humanity growing up and shedding patriarchal empire-building, or urgently addressing the climate crisis and the extinction of species.
David Murray, Wallington, Surrey

Meat myths?

Ironically, George Monbiot (Encounter, 20 May) demonises dairy and livestock farmers in the same way he claims country folk demonise “townies and incomers”. Monbiot ignores the negative impacts of non-dairy milk and yoghurt on our water supply and wider environment, and that milk and meat are vital for early-childhood diets and development. His world-view is essentially expensive and elitist, and light years away from the Iceland food shopper on a limited budget. Or the African pastoral nomadic farmer and her family.
Dr Alan Bullion, agricultural policy analyst, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Philippa Nuttall is incorrect to say that farm animals are “largely fed” on imported soya. Even in the most intensive systems soya is only a fraction of the diet. Many farmers use no soya at all, relying on home-grown rapeseed meal as a source of protein while others simply feed grass, either fresh or conserved, as their animals’ entire diet.
Rob Bevin, Willey, Warwickshire

Reading for pleasure

No doubt all parents recognised and shared Louise Perry’s joy (Off the Record, 20 May) in the amorality of so many hilarious children’s stories. Saki’s biting satire in The Story-Teller reminds us that not everyone before the First World War thought that stories needed to be morally improving.
Graham Williams, Sydney, Australia

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This article appears in the 25 May 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Out of Control