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26 October 2022

Letter of the week: Time for a change

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By New Statesman

I enjoyed David Gauke’s excellent article (“A bonfire of delusions”, 21 October) but I wonder if I can tempt him, cheekily, to go one step further and concede that at this stage a Labour victory would not be a disaster. I understand that Gauke is a right-of-centre thinker, but I make my suggestion for three reasons.

1) Following Johnson’s disgusting behaviour, we were hit by Liz Truss’s cameo, driven by her ultra-libertarian fantasies expressed in language worthy of a conceited undergraduate (“I’m a disrupter”). Surely the Tory party should be held to account for this sequence of events.

2) The Tories seem to be intellectually exhausted and a spell in opposition might give them a chance to regroup and rethink, perhaps finding their better nature, as it were, along the lines that Gauke suggests.

3) Crude though it sounds, it is important that the governing party should be seen to alternate fairly regularly between Labour and the Conservatives. Time for a change? After all, as Gauke points out, Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves are not Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.
David Perry, Cambridge   

The wrong trousers

It beggars belief that the group of senior, experienced politicians that comprises the 1922 Committee should have allowed an electoral process to take place that resulted in Liz Truss becoming prime minister. Did they not understand that she was not fit for office? Did they not realise that to entrust the selection of a party leader to the Barbour-and-red-trousers brigade that forms the core of Tory membership would lead to this disaster? The next election is a lost cause for the Conservatives, but with Sunak in charge there is a chance that the party will avoid annihilation.
Sir Andrew Cook CBE, Castagnola, Switzerland

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Cowley, Cliffe, Marr and Gauke (New Statesman, 21 October) sounds like a firm of solicitors, but sums up why the NS is unmissable. Even in a week when a guest editor assembled such powerful contributions on the climate emergency, the quality of writing from the “regulars” was a winning combination.
Les Bright, Exeter

We should be less surprised by the behaviour of some Conservative MPs; it is simply the herd-instinct mentality of human beings in groups when they lack a rational sense of purpose. Without institutions to manage the primal elements of human nature we collapse into primitive emotional behaviour. We find the dynamics of the Tory party “surprising” because they are a blow to our narcissistic view of ourselves as the uniquely rational species Homo sapiens.
Jon Stokes, St Antony’s College, Oxford University

Listen to Greta

May Greta Thunberg (NS guest editor, 21 October) continue to broadcast her message and, most crucially, may it bear fruit. She is, of course, right that “it is the world’s poorest who are the most threatened” by climate change. A drought in Somalia has – along with similar droughts, and swarming locusts, in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan – started to destroy the lives of 20 million of the world’s poorest people in East Africa, before coronavirus and conflict in Ukraine exacerbated matters. Lifting the blockade on Ukraine’s grain exports is welcome. But urgent action to reduce the carbon emissions of rich countries such as Britain and to fix the food system is also required. Greta Thunberg for prime minister!
David Murray, Wallington, Greater London

Scientific breakthroughs

More of articles like Phil Whitaker’s “Could we soon have a vaccine for cancer?” (Notebook, 21 October) please. The NS should commission more often from experts in scientific disciplines describing recent developments in their fields: for example, reports on the science of Nobel Prize winners in chemistry, physics and physiology or medicine. Revolutionary developments in the areas of epigenetics and “junk” DNA are also in progress.
Dr James Beattie, Ayrshire

Dead and gone

David Sexton’s fine review of Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin (The Critics, 21 October) ignores an important dimension of the film. “Inisherin” roughly translates as “the heart or spirit of Ireland”, and the film, though centrally about its people, also develops a subtle allegorical take on that spirit, as manifest in the War of Independence and the far more brutal Civil War that followed, and which is coming to a close at the time of the action.

It is no accident that Pádraic’s method of setting fire to Colm’s cottage is precisely the method adopted by the IRA in burning down the great houses during the War of Independence, nor that “the island’s bullying policeman” relishes the thought of watching an execution: he doesn’t care who is killing whom, or why. Together, Pádraic and Dominic point to the emasculation of Irish manhood at the time; Colm to the beauty and self-destructiveness of Irish cultural memory; and the intelligent Siobhán to the frustration and isolation experienced by so many Irish women after the famine. The film subtly suggests that “romantic Ireland’s dead and gone” in a way that subverts Yeats’s sentimental lament. Yet for all that it has a terrible beauty.
Bill Myers, Leicester

For the record

Kate Mossman (NS online, 19 October) writes of fans of Arctic Monkeys’ first album, “I can’t really believe they have Mantovani records – or other classics of the lounge and the library – filed alongside his [Alex Turner’s].” Does she find it hard to believe people can like lounge music and Arctic Monkeys’ first album, or that they wouldn’t sort their record collections by genre? Whichever Kate presumes I am, that’s what I’m not.
Josh Bartholomew, Stockport, Greater Manchester

Artist at work

Nothing would make me happier than for Michael Prodger to make a book from his landscape articles, with more pictures and a reference section listing museums where readers can find more of the various painters’ works. Even though I read the New Statesman cover to cover, I have to say my favourite writer is Prodger because he’s a one-man education in art appreciation!
Dee Hester, Bratislava, Slovakia

[See also: Letter of the week: The damage done]

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This article appears in the 26 Oct 2022 issue of the New Statesman, State of Disorder