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16 November 2022

Letter of the week: from left to right

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By New Statesman

The interesting piece on Munira Mirza and her new think tank, Civic Future (The Politics Interview, 11 November), omits perhaps the most interesting fact about the erstwhile head of Boris Johnson’s policy unit. Not only was her PhD supervised by Frank Furedi, she was also once reportedly a member of his Trotskyite faction the Revolutionary Communist Party, contributing to its magazine, Living Marxism.

This strange group later migrated from the extreme fringes of the left to the far margins of the pro-corporate libertarian right, without any stated change in either its aims or methods. Some of its former members now occupy influential positions close to the right-wing political establishment, including in the House of Lords, and particularly anti-green and climate-change denial organisations.

Unsurprisingly, some of these offshoots have been shown to have received funding from the libertarian Koch brothers. In any case, I am sure that Dr Mirza’s stated “commitment to liberal democracy” is genuine, and the funding of her new enterprise will be fully transparent.
Dr John O’Dowd, Bothwell, South Lanarkshire

Civic responsibility

In the face of the country’s huge problems, the non-partisan analysis advocated by Munira Mirza (The Politics Interview, 11 November) in her new initiative, Civic Future, is sorely needed. So too is a robust acknowledgement on the left that our problems are not solely caused by Brexit, insufficient NHS funding or Liz Truss. Instead, they have been coming down the track for years and are deeply structural. The eye-watering costs of the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine have worsened them significantly.

Labour needs to offer a proper alternative. Proposing yet more quantitative easing and windfall and wealth taxes isn’t enough any more.
Kathryn Ecclestone, Penrith, Cumbria

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THANK YOU

Caution for Labour

Andrew Marr has provided an interesting and useful thought experiment (Politics, 11 November) about how the zombie Conservative Party may surprise at the next general election, but I think it is very unlikely. The Tories are very unstable, and Keir Starmer’s Labour needs to keep pushing at the instability. In any event, I wish the worst of luck for the Tories. They have wrecked this country, first with austerity, then with their attempt to resolve an internal hissy fit about Europe with that cursed referendum.
Ian Fraser, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Andrew Marr says that Keir Starmer is “formidable and strategic”, but ignoring the connections between Labour, trade unions and cooperative movements is questionable. Losing party members and trade union support is hardly the best strategy to guarantee electoral success, and Starmer needs to mobilise the resources of Labour’s broad alliance.
Michael McGowan, Leeds

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The reality of TV

Alex Niven’s excellent appreciation of Mark Fisher and his book Capitalist Realism (The Critics, 11 November) serves as a reminder of how etiolated public debate and culture has become in the last two decades, with its lack of vitality and the absence of an exchange of ideas in mainstream forums. In our current neo-Dickensian state we are served a grey, watery soup, masked by the shocking primary colours of fast-food TV. Britain needs to rediscover the role of public intellectuals like Mark Fisher, to challenge and invigorate the zeitgeist.

Felicity McGowan, Cardigan, Ceredigion

Oh, Canada

Your Leader (11 November) asked what kind of country Britain wants to be: one with European-style public services or US-style low taxation? The same question applies to Canada. Our social contract has been slowly surrendered to US neoliberal thinking since austerity began in the 1990s. Reductions in taxes and the elimination of government programmes have led to a crisis in our national public healthcare system, a lack of affordable housing, and homelessness and food bank dependence.

The old political joke about Canada has become a reality: instead of British government, US productivity and French culture, we have ended up with French government, British productivity and American culture.
Guy McDannold, Shirley, British Columbia

Singa-poor comparison

A repeated lament in your pages (“The uncertain future of the Tory Party”, 4 November) has been that a certain kind of neoliberal Conservative wanted to create “Singapore on Thames”. This reveals how little Britons, on both the right and the left, truly follow East Asia. Singapore has strategically invested to attract and grow economic sectors. Its Central Provident Fund brilliantly combines housing, pension saving and health insurance. Singapore’s agile, engaged and active state has lessons for a modern left innovating in the face of scarcity, but little for the ideological right.
Francis Davis, professor of international studies, University of Roehampton

Truth or science fiction?

Quinn Slobodian’s fascinating article on Rishi Sunak’s ideological foundations (Cover Story, 4 November) reminds me of James Blish’s wonderful Cities in Flight novels. It’s almost as if William Rees-Mogg had read them and mistaken the message.
Rupert Chapman, Kingskerswell, Devon

Library not fine

A small correction to Harry Lambert (“The fight for America’s soul”, 11 November). The first Carnegie library in the world is in Carnegie’s home town of Dunfermline. The Braddock library is the first in the US.
Paul Laxton, New Brighton, Merseyside

@chrischirp
Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at UCL
Important thread on Brexit, the economy and why it matters to present evidence regardless of whether it supports a “side”. For Covid, I make sure to present good news as well as bad.
“Why Brexit has been far less damaging than Mark Carney suggests”, Jonathan Portes, 8 November

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[See also: Letter of the week: What Britain has lost]

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This article appears in the 16 Nov 2022 issue of the New Statesman, The state we’re in