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10 October 2018

Letter of the Week: Who’s afraid of Mr Corbyn?

A selection of the best letters received from our readers this week. Email letters@newstatesman.co.uk to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

By New Statesman

David Winner (“How the left enabled fascism”, 5 October) dislikes what he believes will be a “destructive, damaging, disastrous” Brexit. In his fantasy historical analogy he equates the Weimar Republic with pre-Brexit Britain, Corbyn’s Labour with the Bolshevik German Communist Party, and the Brexiteers by implication with the Nazis.

In Winner’s imagination Theresa May’s lederhosen must clearly have taken on monstrous proportions.
And although he accuses Corbyn’s “mild version of the far left” of spending much of its energy attacking the “centre” and “centre left”,
he devotes his whole article to an unsubtle “blame everything” (and especially Brexit) on Corbyn.

No doubt he would love it if Theresa’s cha-cha heels walked all over Corbyn, even though Corbyn proposes the sort of policies that would formerly have been labelled social democratic. It is not the electorate that fears Corbyn, but people like Mr Winner and the Tories who are terrified he will tear up the neoliberal consensus.
Jonathan Notley
London W3

Woke masses

Stephen Bush (Politics, 28 September) suggests that Jeremy Corbyn is succeeding by ignoring his long-held “principles” about grass-roots rule. I agree he is ignoring the grass roots, especially on Brexit, but I dispute this has ever been an issue of principle for Corbyn or the rest of the far left. For them democracy – whether it’s within the party, trade unions or society – has always been a tactic, not a principle. It is to be used when the grass roots are “woke”, to use the modern parlance. If the masses are insufficiently awakened or misled then it’s quite OK to ignore them. It has always
been thus, as anyone who’s been part of the far left (as I was for over a decade) knows.
Professor Colin Talbot
University of Cambridge

The big picture

In your recent Leader (21 September) you repeat the canard that Jeremy Corbyn said at a public meeting in 2013 that “Zionists” do not “understand English irony”. He did not say this. We can all hear what he said on YouTube, so there is no room for argument. Clearly his comments were addressed not to Zionists or to Jews in general but to a small group of avowed  Zionists (in the literal sense) present at the meeting.

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The group was led by Jonathan Hoffman, then (or shortly before that) vice-president of the Zionist Federation. At many otherwise entirely peaceful meetings addressed by Palestinians, Hoffman has for some years now turned up to heckle, with disruptive effect. As chair of Action for Palestinian Children I have twice had to ask him to leave meetings at the HQ of the National Union of Teachers. On at least one other occasion, according to online sources, he has been banned from the House of Commons.

Mr Corbyn seems to have shown some restraint on this occasion under provocation. His choice of words may not have been ideal but he has already said that he is more careful now about using the term Zionist because it can be a pseudonym for Jew. Plainly it was not on this occasion, and therefore not anti-Semitic.

You say that Mr Corbyn has yet to apologise, but is he the one who owes an apology?
Geoffrey Bindman QC
London N6

Little Britain

Colin Kidd (“The great moving right show”, 28 September) asks: “Why did British Conservatism never converge with the conservatisms of other western European nations?” The answer is not quite so obtuse as his article suggests.

First, British conservatism owes much to a love of national tradition and a fondness for national self-governance. Yet, for Continental conservatives, such notions are much more fraught: their recent national histories are frequently tainted by fascism, genocide, abject capitulation, collusion with totalitarianism and – eventually – a crippling sense of national shame and humiliation. Little wonder that Continental conservatives choose to be more ahistorical and utilitarian in outlook, and are somewhat baffled by Britain’s attachment to the democratic nation-state.

Second, as Kidd points out, Continental conservatism is synonymous with Christian Democracy – with the Christian element generally being of a Roman Catholic variety. As such, Christian Democrats were always likely to be more empathetic towards supra-national governance and the assumption that, on occasion, undemocratic and unaccountable authorities should prevail. British conservatism, by contrast, is rooted in a more empirical and sceptical mentality that – hitherto at least – has been a useful guardian against utopian political projects.
Richard Kelly
Stockport, Greater Manchester

Beauty myth

Helen Lewis seems doubtful whether she should keep her newly acquired facial hair (Out of the Ordinary, 5 October). It is, of course, entirely a matter of her choice. That is the point. The shaving and beauty industries are just that: they seek to make a profit out of selling ideas of how and how not it is acceptable to appear.
Keith Flett
London N17

I liked Sarah Ditum’s frank and perceptive analysis of the fat-identity movement (Digital Dispatches, 28 September). Of course anorexia and bulimia are terrible conditions, and I believe the ubiquity of those wan, size-zero models must bear some responsibility for their prevalence. But isn’t eating your way to morbid obesity an eating disorder too?
Vera Lustig
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

Home sweet home

Matthew Engel is not one of the authors and journalists “moving in” to Herefordshire (First Thoughts, 5 October).
He has lived there for at least the past 25 years.
Peter Barnes
Milton Keynes

We reserve the right to edit letters.

This article appears in the 10 Oct 2018 issue of the New Statesman, How austerity broke Britain