I welcomed Gordon Brown’s informed descriptions of contemporary poverty, of the relentlessly creative responses from the third sector and his demand for a recommitment to delivering a decent minimum standard below which no one should fall (Power Politics, 2 December).
Labour needs to do well in Scotland to win a majority, yet we are dogged by the legacy from the 2014 independence referendum when it declared chummily with the Tories that we were “Better Together”. I came within a whisker of voting Yes, largely because the campaign was upbeat and imaginative. Labour must stand apart from the Conservatives, acknowledge what has been achieved by the Scottish parliament and put out an imaginative, costed set of proposals that show it is committed to radical change. A good start would be to read Sorted: A Handbook for a Better Scotland, by Common Weal, a left-wing think tank supportive of independence but with little enthusiasm for the SNP. It may be a bit different from what’s done elsewhere in the UK, but isn’t that part of devolved thinking?
Helene Witcher, Stirling
Call it out
It was a pleasure to read David Baddiel’s Diary (2 December). His words rang true when reading, a few pages on, William Turvill’s otherwise excellent interview with Piers Morgan (The Media Interview, 2 December). It often surprises me that in the press, blatant anti-Semitism is often reported as “alleged” anti-Semitism. In this case, Kanye West is described as being “accused” of anti-Semitism. The press have a duty to call out racism when they see it.
Daniel Palmer, London E4
William Turvill’s meeting with Piers Morgan reveals a profoundly depressing world. At least a few years ago when Morgan interviewed Donald Trump and tried to interview Boris Johnson, the interviews mattered, and Trump was yet to be accused of inciting violence. Now, Morgan and his team are giving platforms to a rapper accused of anti-Semitism and a misogynist influencer.
David Murray, Wallington, Surrey
In a fantasy world where shadow cabinet roles are distributed by focus groups, it is most unlikely that David Lammy would have been asked to shadow the foreign secretary (Encounter, 2 December). He is a passionate man, with strong views expressed robustly: these are great qualities, but they are not generally associated with being the country’s chief diplomat. I don’t understand why Keir Starmer hasn’t given him health, housing, jobs or transport.
Les Bright, Exeter
Phil Hebblethwaite’s article on JS Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (Music, 2 December) certainly struck a chord. During lockdown I resolved to learn all 48 preludes and fugues, and their beauty and complexity proved the perfect antidote to the madness outdoors. Readers will probably recognise the first prelude in C major as the accompaniment to Gounod’s “Ave Maria”.
What is less well-known is that Shostakovich was so inspired as a judge of the 1950 Bach keyboard competition in Leipzig that he composed his own set of 24 preludes and fugues, in my opinion another masterpiece. For any pianist looking to satisfy both brain and heart, look no further.
Kathryn Turner, Ibiza
Glimmers of green
Most people will concur with John Gray’s remarks about the Cop process amounting to no more than greenwashing (“The dangerous conceits of the green revolution”, 18 November). But I take issue with the claim that “the green transition on which environmentalists pin their hopes is a meandering path to nowhere”.
Perhaps uniquely to the climate and biodiversity crisis, every positive action helps and every point of a degree counts, and that means our individual efforts to cancel our carbon emissions not only give us hope (since hope is in action) but also make a difference. There is simply not enough time for us to wait for the UN, politicians and corporations. We must get on with the job ourselves, right now.
Melanie Oxley, Petersfield, Hampshire
As fans of Billy Bragg’s songs know, his new England (Correspondence, 25 November) is half English, and he’s “half English too… a great big bundle of culture tied up in the red, white and blue”.
Austen Lynch, Garstang, Lancashire
Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and Redbridge
This is spot on from @Neal_Compass via @NewStatesman.
“Labour’s manipulation of selection contests reveals its emptiness of purpose”, Neal Lawson, 2 December
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This article appears in the 07 Dec 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas Special