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Letter of the week: What leadership looks like

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By New Statesman

Tom Harwood’s shock (The Diary, 14 January) at Nicola Sturgeon’s put-down of the Scottish Daily Mail’s political editor is somewhat disingenuous. Surely he must know that throughout her career Sturgeon has enjoyed her reputation as a “nippy sweetie” who is well able to defend herself against hostile critics? Whether one supports her nationalist agenda or not, as First Minister – along with her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford – she has given a lead during the pandemic and exposed the inadequacies of the UK government’s approach.

Unlike the Prime Minister, Sturgeon has never gone awol and taken off to a Mediterranean villa or held drinks parties in her official residence during lockdown. She has stayed at her post throughout. Her stamina is extraordinary and her communication skills are superb. That she can occasionally find herself irritated by a right-wing journalist is perfectly understandable and certainly forgivable.

Alison Summers, via email

Parallel universe

The location of Kat Rosenfield’s dystopian new “moral universe” where catching Covid has become “a sinner’s mark” (Another Voice, 14 January) is unclear. Is she suggesting that the UK too has fallen prey to the grotesque parody of behaviour she presents for the US? In either case, it seems that she seizes upon a desire to avoid serious illness and re-characterises this as supercilious piety, fearful neurosis and privileged, door-slamming reclusiveness.

This caricature is insulting to millions, particularly those whose vulnerability means any contact with an unvaccinated person could be perilous, and who have no choice but to adopt the hermit-like life she ridicules. Many such people live on low incomes. As to her side-swipe at the “so-called pandemic of the unvaccinated”, I wonder on what basis she asserts this to be a “myth”. I believe many epidemiologists would disagree with her, as would many doctors and nurses.

Gillian Bargery, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex

The kids are all right

Bruno Maçães (World View, 14 January) does young people a disservice in his analysis of youth rebellion. As the world changes, what we rebel against and what this looks like must too.

I am a teacher of history and politics, and my students are adept at debating and passionately want change. There are those who want to discuss the finer points of Chomsky, which is way above their years. The social media platform TikTok is not just for dances, it helped organise the climate strikes.

I wish to remain anonymous as I do not want people to assume I am teaching my personal opinions to children. The students are very opinionated already!

A sixth form teacher

Mushroom cloud

Jan-Werner Müller (The Critics, 14 January) quotes Hobbes as saying “men emerge from the earth like mushrooms”, meaning that they are without mutual obligations. We now know that the mycelium network from which mushrooms grow carries complex and sophisticated signals to tell its friends where to go for nourishment, also acting as a Wood Wide Web to assist other species. Does this make Hobbes’ underlying assumptions about man dubious?

Margaret Sherborne, Barry

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This article appears in the 19 Jan 2022 issue of the New Statesman, The end of the party