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5 May 2021updated 17 Sep 2021 12:16pm

Letter of the week: A very British problem

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

While Louise Perry is right to point out the impact and potential dangers of American cultural influence globally (Out of the Ordinary, 30 April), she does so in a way that belittles the experience of black and mixed race people in Britain.

Yes, on the whole, the UK police are largely liked and respected, but for many they invoke fear. Black people in England and Wales are five times more likely to be subjected to force by the police than white people, and are disproportionately represented in the figures for deaths in custody. And then there are the individual cases, such as the recent jailing of the former officer Charlie Harrison for breaking the leg of an innocent black man in what the judge described as a “clear case of racial profiling”.

When people protest the police in this country, they may be using American phrases, but they are speaking about very British problems.
Ash Corbett-Collins


Labour pains

Losing the Hartlepool by-election or “having little chance of winning seats again in southern counties” are reasonable assumptions to make of the Labour Party in its present guise, but they do not mean, as Jason Cowley suggests, that “it has ceased to be a national election-winning party” (Editor’s Note, 30 April). A more reasonable conclusion is that changes are required. Having had popular policies that could have transformed the UK but a leader incapable of gaining sufficient trust from the electorate, Labour now has a leader with prime ministerial qualities but policies so moderate that Boris Johnson’s pragmatic Tory party could adopt them. It is ridiculous that in a country so rich as the UK, inequality continues to grow and Labour is not ahead in the polls.

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Even so, it is too soon to write it off as a party incapable of winning a general election. The promise of “agency” suggested by Paul Collier (“The new battle of ideas”, 30 April) would help, but only if accompanied by national policies of transformation. A country being ruined by the deceitful and dishonest Johnson is crying out for them.
Bernie Evans

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I agree with Jason Cowley: the Labour Party is in existential crisis. It is unable to win a general election because it has lost Scotland and is losing ground in its other traditional heartlands. The party was formed to provide representation for working people in Britain, but without power, it has no purpose, and can’t introduce the policies we need to modernise the country.

Is it too late for Labour? Maybe. We took our historical heartlands for granted, we didn’t adapt as the working lives and aspirations of our voters changed. Proportional representation could be the boost that Labour needs to modernise and work in partnership with the electorate in all parts of Britain.
Ruth Potter


Beyond borders

Paul Collier’s fascinating article makes many pertinent points about the need for geographical equity and devolution of power and decision-making (“The new battle of ideas”, 30 April).

But I’m not sure he isn’t missing a trick when he implies that politically significant community ties are limited by national borders. It is an oversight to characterise those with any sort of internationalist outlook as trivial do-gooders, ignoring that there is a sizeable number of UK citizens who have deep connections with other nations. Citizenship is not the only form of meaningful community.
Lisa Smith
Via email


Votes for flappers

Louise Perry (Out of the Ordinary, 23 April) is right to question the success of the suffragettes’ tactics. So disheartened were Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst at the failure of their campaign that they suspended it as soon as the First World War broke out and threw themselves into active support for the war effort. Left-wing Sylvia had already broken with the others to focus on social work in the East End.

The non-violent suffragists, however, continued their campaign for the vote during the war, and their efforts were vindicated in 1918 when it was granted to female householders and the wives of householders aged 30 plus. It wasn’t until the younger generation had shown themselves to be more interested in pleasure-seeking than social change during the Twenties that the Conservative government decided it would be in their interest to grant the vote to the Flappers. They judged that right: for the next 70-plus years a majority of women voted Tory.
Tim Rose



It is election time in Wales and, being one of the family of nations that forms the state of Britain, I was confident that a publication of your standing would give attention to this important event. Alas, Wales is the forgotten nation, while Scotland has a lengthy article on its election (“Building a border”, 30 April). I have joined the Yes movement for Welsh independence: it is time for us who are proud to be Welsh to assert ourselves.
E Pritchard
Bala, Gwynedd


Look elsewhere

I am afraid that Marilyn Spurr is deluded if she believes our increased awareness of climate change is down to Extinction Rebellion (XR) and Fridays For Future (Correspondence, 30 April). What about David Attenborough’s many programmes, or the coverage of Greta Thunberg? What about the other news reports, documentaries, books and articles? I agree with Louise Perry that XR has a self-righteousness that is alienating.
Ali Hull


Optimism needed

I read with some disquiet Leo McKinstry’s doom-laden predictions for the population of Northern Ireland (“A hundred years of trouble”, 16 April). To dismiss the Belfast Agreement as a failure is to abandon any hope that we can extricate ourselves from recurrent conflict, a conclusion I refute. The agreement is a mechanism for addressing problems, not in itself the solution. Over the past 20 years it has saved countless lives.

McKinstry predicts that a united Ireland is imminent. But a united Ireland is not an outcome that can be expected from the current situation, and these islands do not need unfounded predictions about its imminence, which generates false expectations and real fears. The urgent priority is to support the ongoing hard work to reconcile a divided Northern Irish community, and to work for a shared prosperity for all who live there.
Proinsias De Rossa
Dublin, Ireland


Animal attitudes

I have to out myself as a lifetime Labour voter and social democrat who secretly enjoys reading Tory books. I recently finished Sasha Swire’s Diary of an MP’s Wife, which I thoroughly enjoyed: many laugh-out-loud moments and tons of juicy gossip. However, as a devout supporter of animal rights, one part of the book that did not resonate was all the shooting that seems so much a part of the Tory culture.

Hence, it was my delight to read that her Ladyship is at least considering the other path (Diary, 30 April). I invite her to join me in vegetarianism.
Neil Barrington


Meaney’s meaning

Might I respectfully point out that one comment made by Thomas Meaney in his piece on the new biography of Edward Said seems to be rather distant from reality (The Critics, 30 April). He claims that “the Western media went into an uproar when Putin annexed the Crimea in 2014. There was barely a murmur of protest in 2020 when Netanyahu declared the same intentions for large parts of the West Bank.”

I can only assume that he and I live on different planets. The latter was a major story in Western publications, while the former (undoubtedly huge at the time) is barely mentioned nowadays. Meaney also ignores that Netanyahu merely stated his intention to annex said territory, something he never followed through on, while Putin actually went ahead and did it.
Daniel Sugarman
Via email


Keen questions

Ailbhe Rea remembers that when violence erupted in Northern Ireland, of all the interviewers who spoke to her, only Eddie Mair asked her how it felt to be watching events in Belfast from afar (First Thoughts, 30 April).

Mair has an amazing breadth of interviews to his credit, including one with Julie Nicholson, who lost her daughter Jenny in the London bombings of 7 July 2005 (and for which he won the 2012 Sony Globe). Many of us will remember his evisceration of Boris Johnson while the presenter was standing in for Andrew Marr: “You’re a nasty piece of work, aren’t you?”
Andy Froud
Clitheroe, Lancashire


Surely satire?

Reading Andrew Cook’s defence of David Cameron’s actions (Correspondence, 30 April), I felt obliged to check that the postman had delivered my copy of the New Statesman, and not Private Eye. I look forward to more brilliant satire in future editions.
Robert Gent


A forgotten past

Cary Grant was born Archibald Leach. His mother spent 20 years in Glenside Hospital, then a mental institution. The contrast between the glamour and style of the actor’s Hollywood persona and his early childhood in Bristol seems quite extraordinary. While Philippa Snow refers to the “trying” and “challenging”

times we have been living through (The Critics, 30 April), no mention is made of this.
Ivor Morgan


It’s in the genes

I wish to take up a point with Pippa Bailey (Deleted Scenes, 30 April). She inherited her dislike of televised sport from her grandmother on her dad’s side: going back a good number of years, I thought “Rosewall” was a lady tennis player, Rose Wall. The grandmother Pippa mentioned in her article is her maternal grandmother, who, as she quite rightly wrote, played hockey for her county and also watches the Six Nations on the television.
Irene Bailey, Pippa Bailey’s grandmother
Via email


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This article appears in the 05 May 2021 issue of the New Statesman, If not now, when?