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  1. Politics
17 May 2023

Letter of the week: The case against Starmer

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

By New Statesman

Your cover headline (Cover Story, 12 May) could have read “What has gone wrong?” rather than “What could go wrong?”. By excluding individuals he dislikes from standing for parliament, Keir Starmer has abandoned the broad-church model that has served as the basis of the Labour Party’s functioning for decades.

Policy is made on the hoof, if at all, and it is clear that the manifesto for the next election will be decided by Starmer and his inner group alone. You are wrong to say that Labour does not support electoral reform. A substantial majority of Labour Party members and affiliated organisations do, but Starmer and a majority of the paliamentary party oppose it.

The local elections demonstrate the country has had enough of the Tories, but Labour is far from assured of victory. Parliamentary boundary changes will help the Conservatives. Labour needs, and the UK deserves, a clear radical programme to repair our public services, the gross inequalities of our rentier society and the shabby future we offer to younger people. Keir Starmer has no intention, or, I fear, the ability, to offer that, and I bitterly regret voting for him as leader.
Peter Tinsley, Birmingham

[See also: Letter of the week: A problem of scale]

Wise counsel

David Gauke (Politics, 12 May) refers to the anti-Tory vote being more efficiently delivered in the local elections. This was very true in my borough, where Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens removed five Tories. My own ward, won in 2022 with a majority of almost 800, was replaced by a Green majority of 600. The two issues that did for my and countless other Tory seats along the south coast were house-building and water quality. It’s clear that voters feel increasingly ignored on the environment, housing and infrastructure.
Richard Kennett, Havant Borough Council

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David Gauke notes “the thinly resourced Lib Dems usually underperform in general elections compared to local elections”. While they don’t have the financial clout of the Tories, this is more than compensated for by the volunteer-led ground campaigns, with numbers swelling considerably since 2019. Rather than let this resource dwindle, in Surrey Heath the campaign to oust Michael Gove will start immediately.
Councillor Kevin Thompson, Surrey Heath

The world is not enough

Mark Thorp (Correspondence, 12 May) is correct to say energy can only be converted, not created, but our civilisation is a fossil-fuel economy. Our profligate use of oil, coal and minerals has led to global warming, climate instability, global pollution and scarcity of rare minerals. That has already led to colonialism and wars, and there will be more unless we can somehow move to a global sustainable economic system. If we do not change our ways, the laws of nature will.
Martin White, Sheffield

Robert D Kaplan (“The New Age of Tragedy”, 28 April) quotes with approval a prediction that “the finite size of the Earth would become a source of instability”. The world will “eventually become just too small for its volatile politics”, he says.

How can the size of something be a source of instability? Would it not be more realistic and, well, sane, to say that the size of the planet is what it is, but the scale and type of our activities within that space are the parameters that we can change?
Dave Bradney, Llanrhystud, Ceredigion

Idylls of the King

As someone working in Transylvania for 20 years, I am happy to say that Charles III’s secret kingdom (Cover Story, 5 May) was excellently researched, and explained very well the basis of his attraction to the area. But I strongly challenge the portrayal of the village of Viscri as a Disneyland, with few farmers, divorced from modern sources of prosperity.

It is wrong to suggest the King is pursuing a romantic view of the past while damaging people’s incomes and creating a museum village. The reverse is true. He is building prosperity linked to care for nature, and not only in Viscri.
Nat Page, Fundatia ADEPT Transilvania, Salisbury, Wiltshire

In defence of the Lords

Harry Lambert (The Critics, 5 May) expresses an opinion rarely aired in rebutting the call for a fully elected House of Lords, stating that in the upper chamber issues receive much more scrutiny than in the more rowdy, partisan discussions by MPs. In some ways, our democracy seems safer in the Lords.

Impressive peers are drawn from all professions, such as the renowned linguist and English scholar Randolph Quirk. Our democracy needs such defenders. What we do not need is peerages being used to reward party donors and political hacks and cronies who have no care or gift to share with the nation. Let us remove the obscene privileges of yore, but keep this house of reflection and second thinking.
Josephine Evetts-Secker, Whitby, North Yorks

TV Eye

Thank you for Will Lloyd’s laugh-out-loud review of the coronation coverage on various channels (The Critics, 12 May). What a pity it didn’t extend to the equally bizarre, truly awful concert from Windsor.
John Adcock, Ashtead, Surrey

Global Bicester Village

Nicholas Lezard’s reference to Bicester Village (Down and Out, 12 May) only scratches the surface. Here’s the story: people in China make clothes and other goods for luxury brands, which are shipped to the UK. Stuff that doesn’t sell is sent to Bicester. Chinese tourists travel to Bicester searching for bargains. On the train back to London they assume their new purchases and abandon their old clothes, which fill the lost property office at Marylebone. This is a bit ridiculous and worthy of further coverage as a vivid example of something or other.
Timothy Beecroft, St Albans, Hertfordshire

@lorenaoneil
Lorena O’Neil, journalist
Absolutely heartbreaking reporting from Pooja Bhatia on what’s happening in Haiti.
“Haiti’s descent into hell”, Pooja Bhatia, 10 May

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This article appears in the 17 May 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Left Power List

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