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  1. Election 2024
1 March 2023

Letter of the week: A turning tide?

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By New Statesman

In 2014 I discovered that I am a typical voter in Scotland (“The undoing of Nicola Sturgeon”, 24 February). I voted Labour in every election from 1983 to 2010. Then came the Better Together campaign in 2014 and I was repelled, not just by the campaign, but by the Labour Party’s role in it. I decided I could no longer vote Labour and switched to the SNP, only to discover a year later in the 2015 general election, that I was far from alone.

In watching the SNP leadership campaign unfold, I have found myself seriously considering voting Labour again for the first time in nearly a decade. I hope, in the talk of ditching “the old guard” and moving in a new direction, SNP members do not forget what attracted so many Labour voters to the party in the first place.

If Ash Regan wins, it is game over, and the pronouncements of Kate Forbes thus far do not fill me with enthusiasm. We have all seen how apparently solid political support can melt away very quickly, and if I was typical in 2014, I might prove to be equally typical come 2024.
Robert Reid, Kilmarnock

[See also: Letter of the week: What conservatism knows]

Scotland after Sturgeon

Chris Deerin writes of Kate Forbes (NS online, 24 February) that “it’s baffling she hadn’t prepared a more crafted and inclusive way of talking about her beliefs”. I wonder what he thinks is the most inclusive way to communicate the belief that I and thousands of others in Scotland should be banned from marrying?
Michael Scanlon, Edinburgh
See also: Why Kate Forbes just won’t quit

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In your excellent coverage of Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation, Andrew Marr’s throwaway comment (Cover Story, 24 February) on the condom included in the Scottish government’s “baby box” somewhat jarred. Short-interval pregnancy is a serious problem, more likely to affect women from socially deprived areas. One condom does not resolve it, but is perhaps a reminder that avoiding an unplanned pregnancy requires active intervention. The inclusion of public health information and practical advice would help still further.
Peter Young, Strachan, Aberdeenshire

Privatising government

Having spent two years with powerful consultancies, I read with interest Megan Gibson’s interview with The Big Con’s author, Mariana Mazzucato (Encounter, 24 February). I suspect that the debilitating consequence of government’s use of consultancies is not unintended – small-state Tories are surely delighted that Thatcher’s privatisation programme has stealthily reached its apogee: the privatisation of the governing of Britain.
Martin Lees, Great Chart, Kent

The neoliberal think tank the IEA has half a dozen articles and a podcast attempting to discredit Mariana Mazzucato, including her argument that the state is the boldest, most valuable risk-taker of all. When Keynes said, “Anything we can do, we can afford,” he displayed precisely the ambition for the state that Mazzucato says is missing from present government policy. Britain is lucky to have her.
David Murray, Wallington, Surrey

Navel gazing

While agreeing with Jason Cowley (Editor’s Note, 24 February) that Masaccio’s fresco The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden is a study in agony and shame, I have always wondered why Adam and Eve have navels. Is God a woman who gave birth anthropomorphically?
Farrukh Dhondy, London SE23

Death of deference

“The strange death of the centre right” by Jeremy Cliffe and “Godless Britain” by Madoc Cairns (both 17 February) made for fascinating reading. A common thread is the decline in deference in Britain from the late 20th century onwards. My grandparents and parents would defer to their “betters”, including “professionals” such as the doctor, teacher and bank manager. These were the upper middle class who generally voted Tory to maintain the status quo and their position in society.

Cairns writes: “In 1500, unbelief was nearly unthinkable.” I think rather it was unthinkable for ordinary people to state unbelief or miss church. RH Tawney in Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926) said: “Practically, the Church was an immense vested interest, implicated to the hilt in the economic fabric, especially on the side of agriculture and land tenure.”
Ruth Potter, Stamford Bridge, East Yorkshire

All quiet on the teaching front

I would strongly recommend the 1979 film version of All Quiet on the Western Front (The Critics, 24 February). It conveys its profound message in a way that’s faithful to the book’s narrative style. As a retired German teacher, I still recall the impression it made on numerous sixth-form groups.
David Slinger, Highnam, Gloucestershire

Etymology in the UK

To add a footnote to your Language Notes (24 February), in 1977 a record store was prosecuted for obscenity for advertising Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. The store manager was represented by John Mortimer, who produced an expert witness stating the word was not obscene, but Old English and referred to a small ball. The magistrates “reluctantly” found the store manager not guilty.
Adam Penwarden, Brighton

David Herman, author
One of the best things about the NS these days is the European coverage. Excellent articles this week: Wolfgang Münchau on the state of Italy and Jeremy Cliffe on why All Quiet on the Western Front is going down so badly in Germany.
“Italy is too large to save but cannot be left to fail”, Wolfgang Münchau, 22 February

Hannah Rich, director, Christians on the left
I’m grateful faith is a constant in my life, but then I read a piece like this and I’m almost jealous of people finding it for the first time.
“Could I become a Christian in a year?”, Lamorna Ash, 20 February

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Read more:

Why Kate Forbes just won’t quit

The undoing of Nicola Sturgeon

Why the fall of Nicola Sturgeon offers little reason for unionist triumphalism

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This article appears in the 01 Mar 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Mission