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15 February 2023

Letter of the week: Our duty to Afghanistan

Write to letters@newstatesman.co.uk to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

By New Statesman

Yalda Hakim’s moving account of the plight of Afghan women (The Diary, 10 February) should dismay us all. Since the West allowed the Taliban to regain power, we have a responsibility to act. Two courses of action spring to mind. First, to provide a comprehensive distance-learning scheme, using resources such as the Open University, BBC World Service and the British Council, to support, or even substitute for the schools and colleges barred to women. And, second, to extend the Afghan Civilian Resettlement Scheme to all women denied a university education.

The Taliban may try to prevent women from leaving but Afghanistan’s borders are not sealed, or sealable, and many of those eligible for the schemes for interpreters and others who directly supported the UK armed forces have managed to get out. The real problem will not be the Taliban but our government’s will to make a difference. The debacle of August 2021 caused many to question the West’s intervention. Doing right by Afghan women now will help to reinforce that our purpose was moral and we sought a better future for Afghanistan.
Simon Diggins, colonel (retired), defence attaché, Kabul 2008-10

[See also: Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul]

One nation under a cloud

Rishi Sunak (Cover Story, 10 February) is a man without any clearly stated ideas or sense of direction, with no obvious support within or outside of parliament. After the chaotic and dishonest Johnson years, and the delusional interlude that was the Truss government, claiming that he would lead a government of “integrity, professionalism and accountability” was attractive. However, his stubbornness as he tries to face down public sector strikers is not building his standing or that of his party.
Les Bright, Exeter, Devon

One Nation Tories (Leader, 10 February) have become practically extinct. I well remember the Conservative MPs who had the whip removed in 2019 for standing up to Boris Johnson about a no-deal Brexit. Those that remain are talking to themselves and solving none of the problems plaguing this country.
Judith A Daniels, Cobholm, Norfolk

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[See also: Rishi Sunak, the man who isn’t there]

Cold reading

I enjoyed Kate Mossman’s interview with the psychic Jayne Wallace (Encounter, 10 February) and can appreciate how a successful business can be created in uncertain times, when there will always be those seeking a better understanding about their future.

However, I was astonished at the relatively unquestioning response to this mysticism. Derren Brown, among others, regularly debunks such readings. Mossman seemed beguiled and asked no questions about the validity of this venture, and its potential repercussions among the most emotionally vulnerable.
Mervyn Ely, Chudleigh, Devon

I subscribe to the NS for critical analysis of the politics around me, not accounts of love affairs, however relevant to our times (Comment, 10 February), or “aura oil”, however relevant to our times. Last week’s issue only got into gear with Wolfgang Münchau (Lateral View, 10 February).
Thom Gorst, Bath

Natural and man-made disasters

One could not fail to be moved by the poem by my friend Larissa Miller (The NS Poem, 10 February) about Putin’s war, translated by Rowan Williams, as by the dreadful random catastrophe of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria (The Big Picture, 10 February). Of course, the war is no random accident, but a crazed act of will. It could be ended tomorrow, but President Putin is evidently seeking to mobilise the Russian people and economy for a long campaign. What can be done to reach out and convince Russians that our quarrel is not with them but with their government?
John Radcliffe, London N1

Height of idiocy

Andrew Marr is right (Culture Notes, 10 February): the “idiot rich” are taking over our big cities. This isn’t new. The flats being “overlooked” by the Tate Modern are a case in point, but there are so many others. It’s high time we revolted against greedy landlords. Holding councils to account will be a good first step. If they approve questionable developments, they should be made to offset the damage by creating new green spaces, tree-lined streets and even things as basic as public loos.
Sebastian Monblat, Surbiton, Greater London

Spare the Rod

Jerry Peyton (Correspondence, 10 February) was mean-spirited to say the least. Rod Stewart has offered to pay for 20 health scans. He also pays rent for a family of seven Ukrainian refugees. This is among many charitable gigs and donations that he has made over the years. As rich posers go, he’s all right by me.
Bob Wilson, Wrexham

I suppose that Rod Stewart going left (Comment, 3 February) is a good jumping off point for describing the NHS crash, but I could have done without the description of Rod’s youthful antics. I started working as a student nurse in the NHS in 1980 and already at 18 years old, I was aware of the cracks. In a way l’m surprised and proud that this amazing institution has lasted so long, but people are now dying because of a failing system that was once something to be truly proud of.
Sarah Webb, Bremen, Germany

Begging letter

Sorry to have to break it to Allan Howard (Correspondence, 10 February), but there’s no such thing as “wrong usage” of English expressions. Nobody is in a position to define the rules; instead, we can only go by the idea of common usage, which isn’t always clear-cut. I think we can safely assume that everyone knew what the previous correspondent meant by “begs the question”, and that’s all that matters.
Graham Hughes, Chester

@ShippersUnbound
Tim Shipman, journalist and author
Insightful and at times very amusing insight into the media landscape from the ever readable @harrytlambert.
What does Evgeny Lebedev want?”, Harry Lambert, 8 February

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[See also: Letter of the week: Why Germany follows]

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This article appears in the 15 Feb 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Why the right is losing everywhere