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22 January 2020

Letter of the Week: Energy solution

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

By New Statesman

My response to climate change news on TV, as a lady in her eighties, is to shrug my shoulders and say, “What can I do about it?” But having got the blues watching it, the picture on the TV changed to sportsmen in a race. Their energy was overwhelming.

So I emailed the BBC asking if they could put a monthly ban on each sport. The purpose of this would be to allow the main participants to be employed in giving up ideas or contributing to the cause of controlling global warming. For example, cricket would not be allowed in Britain during the month of April: all cricket teams would report to the local climateer for instructions. The logistics would be difficult but the energy would be there. It sounds like nonsense – but think about it.

The next day, I read a clever and amusing article by Amelia Tait (Out of the Ordinary, 17 January) in your excellent New Statesman. She too had the blues about climate change. But she, young thing, has more reason than an 88-year-old great-grandmother.

Margaret Wiener

Battle lines

There is an omission in John Gray’s analysis of the rout of Labour in its old heartlands (“The new battleground”, 17 January). The blame for Britain’s multiple discontents has been laid with the EU by the Tory government. Their
ten-year reign of austerity was forgotten: their overwhelming election victory was based on the acceptance of a lie. Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, once said that the bigger the lie, the more likely that people would believe it.

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The outcome of the 2019 election will give effect to this lie in justifying “the will of the people”. But this justification is in contrast to the reality of the UK’s position. Brexit risks diluting EU legal standards that help to protect rights in areas such as personal privacy, workers’ rights and non-discrimination. Moreover, future British law-making will not be free of coordination with the EU in order to ensure market share. Brexit may yet be Boris Johnson’s undoing.

Andrew Richardson

I see the significance of the 2016 referendum quite differently from John Gray. I find it hard to imagine that the political class of any other country would enable potential huge constitutional and economic disruption by putting a 50-per-cent-plus-one, yes-or-no question to the polling booth. Some countries would insist on a majority in all or most of its constituent sub-parts or a decisive margin in the voting outcome; most would have laughed at the idea that a hugely complex matter could be solved with one referendum.

Trevor Pateman

The Conservatives won the election because the electorate thought the vote to leave the EU should be actioned, and Labour was equivocal, with a lacklustre leader. I have great respect for John Gray but disagree that there is a dilemma for Boris Johnson between the working class and the progressive values of the establishment. With a majority of 80, a boundary reorganisation and a politically cleansed government, Johnson does not need the red wall.

Robin C Richmond
Bromyard, Herefordshire

John Gray’s essay may be unnecessarily elaborate. If the Conservative Party is successful in destroying the democratic and welfare gains of the past century, it is because opponents – both liberal and socialist – lack the wit or nerve to challenge it. No one is pro-establishment.

When Dominic Cummings announced he was recruiting outsiders to smash the traditions of the UK civil service, “pro-business” liberals lined up to offer mindless support. After everything they had said about inefficiency and lack of enterprise, they couldn’t say anything supportive of the established civil service. Being seen as anti-establishment was more attractive than the truth.

Rather than hurrying to the defence of parliament and other institutions on which reforms depend, socialists tend to do the opposite. They want to remain true to their revolutionary tradition. They argue for getting among the people, agitating, setting up counter-structures.

The progressive position now should be to defend the establishment, to resist the right-wing project that seeks to roll back the state and destroy so many gains upon which decent living depends.

Colum McCaffery
Lucan, Co Dublin, Ireland

John Gray always makes us think and there is much to agree with in his analysis, but in three respects he should think again.

First, no one seriously believes that good PR would have prevented the disaster caused by Jeremy Corbyn’s unelectability and Labour’s fudged position on Brexit.

Second, in his eagerness to characterise progressives as conspiracy theorists, Gray underestimates the significance of interference (by Cambridge Analytica, for example) in the referendum. It isn’t “thwarting the results of democratic choices” to suggest that the referendum didn’t deliver an overwhelming mandate.

Finally, do we really believe that Corbyn supporters think the West “is uniquely malignant, the ultimate source of injustice and oppression throughout the world, and Western power and values essentially illegitimate”? In suggesting that they do, and that such views have been instilled in them by university teaching, John Gray might be accused of sounding – dare I say it – like a conspiracy theorist.

Jeff Skinner

Many on the left would do well to heed the words of John Gray, in particular on the disconnect between certain self-proclaimed progressives and voters of a different world-view (such as some in working-class communities). He points to crime and security as specific examples – I would add to that religious affiliation. The recent vitriol over Rebecca Long-Bailey’s distinction between her personal views on abortion and what she would advocate as leader of the Labour Party was a case in point.

If Labour is to speak to Britain again, it must recognise that a plurality of views and cultural identities makes up the fabric of our society. Labour’s broad coalition was always one that accommodated atheists, believers and everyone in between. To win, we will need to be that type of party again.

G D’Oca

I resubscribed to the New Statesman a couple of years ago and have been hooked ever since, thanks to your excellent columnists, guest writers, culture pages and the diversity of views represented.

Having said that, I am baffled as to why you think your readers want to read four- or five-page diatribes by John Gray in which he dismisses the progressive views of many of your readers – and more than half of voters – as a “cult”.

Adam Hewitt

Ongoing dispute

I read Anoosh Chakelian’s article “An atrocity remembered” (Observations, 10 January) with dismay, as it reflects a subjective reading of history.

Depicting a common suffering through one-sided presentation and politicising genocide, which is a legal term, would not ease a long-held sense of agony. Likewise, wishing a rise in the number of countries recognising off-base genocide allegations would only allow other political actors to exploit those feelings.

While on the one hand the author expresses her displeasure with Armenia’s “pawn” status in a geopolitical game, on the other she dreams of recognition by a larger number of countries, in contradiction with herself.

Ümit Yalçın
Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey in London

Costly convenience

I have some sympathy with Janet Mansfield’s comment about the widening of the A1 north of Newcastle (Correspondence, 17 January).But we are facing a climate crisis and should think carefully about removing carbon-storing trees and ploughing up grass verges to create a wider road so that people can drive their cars faster through England’s most unspoilt region. The A1 is already England’s deadliest road for wildlife. Let’s not make this worse by destroying the habitat of the creatures we share the planet with.

Mike Cassels


Jonathan Liew’s suggestion that “the very act of supporting a football club” is becoming a “paid-for privilege” (Left Field, 17 January) is 140 years out of date. Admission to Football League games began in 1880. For fans of most clubs, it’s more of a regular test of loyalty and patience than a “privilege”.

Jonathan Cook
Harbury, Warwickshire

Jonathan Liew’s reference to Liverpool FC trying to trademark “Liverpool” reminds me of the correspondence between bros Marx and Warner. The latter employed lawyers to stop the former from calling their forthcoming release A Night in Casablanca, claiming that their Bogart and Bergman production gave them exclusive rights to the word “Casablanca”.

Numerous letters were exchanged. From memory, the trump letter from Groucho conceded Warner could have “Casablanca” but that they could not be “Brothers” because Marx were brothers before.

Chris Pike
Battle, East Sussex

Spectrum support

I was surprised by Jonathan Rowson’s view that the left-right political spectrum was a “conceptual zombie” (Q&A, 17 January). Surely, at heart this spectrum is the expression of a collection of individuals at one end and communities at the other. It is one of the primary prisms through which climate change, technological change and globalisation are mediated.

Michael Haskell
Broughton, Flintshire

Royal rebellion

In “The break-up of a family firm” (17 January), Simon Jenkins blames the Queen for the 1969 film Royal Family, while admitting it was Prince Philip’s idea. Jenkins believes the monarchy’s privacy was lost because of it. Britain had a huge empire, and now a Commonwealth, making the Queen the world’s most famous woman. Modern life means her family is famous too.

Tim Mann
Waterlooville, Hampshire

Are you mad? A three-page article on Harry and Meghan, and you don’t put their picture on the cover? Do you want to sell the NS? Who edits this rag? Sack them immediately.

Steve Tollyfield
Alfreton, Derbyshire

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This article appears in the 22 Jan 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Power to the people