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10 March 2021

Letter of the week: All work, no pay

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

Christopher Gasson’s article is thought provoking (“The tyranny of brilliant ideas”, 5 March). However, he makes one glaring omission. Rights holders are also individual authors, artists, photographers, poets and other creators for whom copyright remuneration is their livelihood. The EU 2019 copyright directive, which the government is refusing to implement in the UK, recognises this and contains clauses that, if enacted properly, would guarantee creators’ proper remuneration for the online exploitation of their work. It would also ensure that creators and creative industry workers, through collecting societies and trade unions, are given stronger bargaining power with platforms and employers. Researchers in Germany estimate that Google spent €38m opposing the directive. It lost – but with Brexit and the present government, our creators are losing out, too.
Carole Tongue
Chair, UK and European Coalitions for Cultural Diversity


Forgotten voices

Philip Collins’s column on the government’s proposed aid cuts is incredibly important (The Public Square, 5 March). He is absolutely right that the extraordinarily large cut in aid to Yemen will directly lead to the deaths of many innocent people, including children. Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East and it has been bombed to smithereens. The idea of making life even harder for a country that has suffered so much is abhorrent. Tory MPs like Edward Leigh are appalled by the callousness of the cut. Significantly more Tories need to speak up against this dereliction of duty. The fifth richest country in the world should not and cannot shirk its moral responsibilities.
Sebastian Monblat
Sutton, Greater London



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It barely needs restating that the pandemic is terrible; it is a relief to see non-Covid-19 articles in the 5 March issue, such as Philip Collins’s column decrying our government’s cuts in aid to Yemen. We need these voices if this period is not to become one in which to bury bad news. My exposure to mainstream media comes mainly in the form of BBC Radio 4’s PM and The World Tonight. PM has included listeners’ accounts of their daily walks, but no mention of, say, the latest developments in the climate crisis, the fallout from Brexit, the Good Law Project’s success in bringing a High Court judgment against the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, or coverage of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. We seldom hear dispatches from the Grenfell inquiry. As Tracey Thorn points out (Off the Record, 5 March), for some people there is no “getting back to normal”.
Vera Lustig
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

[see also: Why the government must reverse the drastic cuts in aid to Yemen]


Well-worn taunts

Richard J Evans’s review of Robert Tombs’s book This Sovereign Isle was an ad hominem attack (The Critics, 26 February). Describing Tombs as an “aggressive and polemical Tombs-Hyde” suggests that Evans is guilty of the same crime: “Cherry-picking his evidence.” His dismissal of Tombs’s claim about the “stifling” Remainer consensus in universities ignored anecdotal evidence in a Guardian article by an anonymous academic who voted to leave: “I worry that admitting I voted for Brexit might harm my prospects.” Evans wheeled out well-worn taunts about Brexiteers’ nostalgia for a lost empire and being anti-immigrant. An academic who reviewed opinion poll findings over many years found no evidence to suggest that Brexit unleashed a tide of hostility towards immigrants. The Remainer elite’s pre-referendum fear tactics forecasting the collapse of the housing market, high interest rates and mass unemployment did not succeed in frightening the “lower orders” into submission.
John Coen
Sutton, Greater London


Lessons of history

Further to the comment in your leader (Lost Labour, 5 March) that it was “careless” of Angela Rayner and Lisa Nandy to tweet about the first ethnic minority UK party leader, what this shows is not carelessness but a complete lack of historical knowledge. Blame lies partly in the downgrading of history curricula in schools, but also with a strange lack of curiosity among much of the younger generation of politicians and the population about how and why the UK is the country it is.
Joe Hayward
Stanmore, Greater London


Interwar cheers

I have enjoyed reading Andrew Marr’s history writing in the past, but some of the remarks in his review of the new edition of Chips Channon’s diaries are questionable (The Critics, 5 March). His review’s opening line is bonkers: the interwar years in Britain are remembered fondly by millions of readers who have gobbled its literature, poetry and drama, not to mention film fans who love the movies of the period. Interwar British music and art, too, is not nothing. Half the British population was newly enfranchised, or clearly on the way to being so, and opportunities for women and men in the less moneyed classes were opening up rapidly. What Marr calls, vituperously, the “modern car-based economy, vomiting up the ribbon developments and standardised housing” made better homes for our forebears to live in.

Of Marr’s examples of Britain’s “leading writers” of the period, JB Priestley deserves that label, but the others do not. George Orwell’s first book came out in 1933 and he did not become a “leading writer” until the war. Stella Gibbons’s first novel didn’t arrive until 1932. The poetry of WH Auden and TS Eliot is hardly documentary.
Kate Macdonald

[see also: Sex, scandal and high society in Chips Channon’s uncensored diaries]


Listless Labour

Philip Collins’s strictures on misreading Boris Johnson could equally apply to Keir Starmer (The Public Square, 26 February). I certainly misread Starmer when I voted for him in the leadership election. I saw a steely, charismatic sincerity that now appears to be non-existent. His dynamic defence of Remain was simply that: a lawyer’s defence of a position to which he obviously had no attachment. He seems to think the way to win back the Red Wall is to abandon the fight over Brexit, when 70 per cent of his party and most Labour voters in the Red Wall still oppose it. And now he is out-taxed by the Tories. He and his acolytes seem interested in only one thing: purging Corbynism from the party. At least Corbyn believed in something.
Barry Wilson
Talloires, France


The EU’s purpose

As I read the 5 March edition, I am struck by a rather glaring omission. Moving from Andrew Marr’s terrific critique of Chips Channon’s recently “deregulated” diaries to the pontificating of erudite historians such as Tombs and Evans about the pros and cons of the Brexit mess, there is no mention of one of the original motivations behind the EU.

Churchill and others were firm advocates of the original union in order to defuse the possibility of friction between the countries of Europe in the future. The potential for acquisitive nationalist governments within the individual countries of Europe to threaten their neighbours would, they felt, be diminished if all the countries were part of a union. With the rise of nationalism, a pandemic dividing national identities across borders and an overt focus on short-term economics, it’s surprising that this is never mentioned.
Robert Ingram
Via email


Magic money

How refreshing to see a grown-up piece of journalism dealing with macro-economic policy (Encounter, 19 February). For decades, the consensus in the UK press has been to equate managing the deficit to managing a household budget. Theresa May’s reference to a “magic money tree” betrayed her economic illiteracy. While this argument simplifies monetary policy to a soundbite that is easily consumed in the shires, it is a dangerous lie. Tropes such as “living within our means” and “not saddling our children with future debt” have been peddled by conservatives for decades.
Andrew Davies
Via email


Silent suffering

Julian Baggini is right about the hierarchy of suffering, especially those ignored for not having had Covid-19 (Observations, 5 March). My mother-in-law died in her care home on 22 February, aged 100 years and two months, from old age and a chest infection. For the last year of her life her body’s decline accelerated, exacerbated by her already advanced hearing loss and macular degeneration.

Having buried two husbands and two of her three children, it would have been nice if there had been a way for her to hold my wife, her only surviving child, one more time, and meet two of her great-grandchildren. Occasional window visits with us packed into PPE were no substitute. The impact of Covid on her life was to inhibit any means of mitigating the impact of advanced old age on her.

There are many more people whose silent suffering has been blithely dismissed or ignored and who will die without note. That neglect will scar us for generations.
Guy de la Bédoyère
Grantham, Lincolnshire

[see also: How Covid-19 created a new hierarchy of suffering]


Bad wrap

You might be feeling smug about the green credentials of the new paper envelope for the magazine, but it is not fit for purpose if the cover adheres to the glue of this awkwardly constructed containing mechanism and is then
ripped clean off.
Linda Calvey
Duston, Northampton


Because of an error on a wrapping line, a number of subscriber copies were affected as above last week. Anyone who received a torn copy should contact the subscriptions team at for a replacement. We apologise for the inconvenience.


Clean away

The New Statesman is always informative and stimulating, but for me it continues to ask a question to which I fear there is no answer. Why, oh why, with little money and time enough on his hands to watch neighbours doing jigsaws, does Nicholas Lezard (Down and Out, 5 March) pay someone
to do his cleaning?
Margaret Lowndes
Askrigg, North Yorkshire

[see also: I’m not sure which I fear more, Legionnaires’ disease or the thought of a stranger in the flat]

We reserve the right to edit letters.


This article appears in the 10 Mar 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Grief nation