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17 August 2022

Letter of the week: Labour’s missing localism

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By New Statesman

Kate Mossman’s extended interview with Lisa Nandy (“The Wigan warrior”, 29 July) provided readers with insights into how she sees politics – a game of two halves, played both on the home pitch and “away” grounds like Westminster. Given her genuine passion for promoting the unique needs of towns, Labour should by now have a comprehensive policy, and programme for government, addressing why and how towns have been “left behind”, that exposes the thinness of the government’s understanding and its inability to articulate what it means by “levelling up”.

It is perfectly possible to see Nandy as a future Labour leader, but she needs to be careful not to be divisive. Knowing what to do with a Wigan barm cake – or not, in David Lammy’s case – must not become a lazy test of whether we understand what matters to people, and where we stand on justice and equity. The north does not have a monopoly on being ignored and under-provided for – the gap is between Westminster and the rest of the country.
Les Bright, Exeter, Devon

For the birds

I have read Helen Macdonald’s article (Summer Reflection, 29 July) on seabirds again, having just swum out along the shore to a beautiful stacked arch by Souter Lighthouse, where I saw some amazing rock formations and seabirds. The gulls, shags, fulmars and the odd tern were initially unsettled by my presence but the cormorants pretty much ignored me. Being so close to them was such a privilege. Helen’s article made me think about how poorly we as a species interact with wildlife: everything must be on human terms even though we are the relative newcomers – “their crime”, as she writes, “being little more than failing to treat humans and human spaces with due respect”.
Marie Donnelly, Sunderland

The expat dream

As much as I would very much support Boris Johnson leaving Britain and going far, far away, I fear the US presidency is out of reach (Correspondence, 29 July). He was born in New York, which would usually make someone eligible for US citizenship, but he gave up this status in 2016, apparently to demonstrate his loyalty to the UK.
Christopher Rossi, Enfield, Greater London

Leadership for Labour

Gordon Brown may not have charisma (“As Gordon Brown intervenes, where is Keir Starmer?”, NS online, 11 August), but he showed leadership in the 2008 financial crisis, and was our last decent prime minister. Keir Starmer is an honourable man, but he does not seem to be a natural politician, and so far he and the Labour Party have come up with very little political strategy that the public can grasp.
Rosanne Bostock, Oxford

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Forgotten Ephron

In her review of Nora Ephron’s biography (The Critics, 29 July), Anna Leszkiewicz notes “Ephron’s trademark wit, her instinct for life’s absurdities” yet doesn’t mention Michael, in which John Travolta plays an overweight, smoking, slob of an angel. Despite being panned by the critics it was a box office success, yet it has gone into oblivion. It deserves to be resurrected.
Peter and Gillie Foster, Edinburgh

No Larkin about

It’s a pity to find the great and good so ready to polish Philip Larkin’s reputation (The Critics, 29 July), and a puzzlement why many are so fond of the grim old “national treasure”. The bias against the poor, the paralysing fear of death, the everyday miserablism – they’re visible enough in the poems. Larkin nostalgia has become a subset of the tinselled national nostalgia that has helped fuel our present crisis. A skilful poet? Certainly. And skilful enough to be dangerous.
Richard Warren, Walsall, West Midlands

It was interesting reading such varied views on Larkin. But Michael Henderson’s contribution declares Larkin’s narrow and rather ignorant descriptions of the music of John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk as “spot on”. Mr Henderson is clearly a “mouldy fig” on jazz, as was Larkin.
Alistair Loftus, Bere Alston, Devon

Bob Gregory (1935-2022)

Bob Gregory, the NS crossword compiler “Cullen”, died at his home in Cardiff on 6 August. I met Bob in 2013 through an article on the centenary of the British crossword in Saga Magazine – for which he compiled the challenging cryptic crossword for nearly 20 years. He presented the weekly puzzle in the Jewish Chronicle for just as long. He joined the New Statesman compiling team in March 2017, with his final puzzle appearing in January 2022. Bob was CEO of an international firm in Cardiff, and his greatest claim to fame was setting the light-aircraft world speed record between London and Hong Kong in 1974. He will be missed from these pages.
Tom Johnson (“Anorak”), crossword editor

Jonathan Eyal, associate director at the security think tank RUSI
If you wish to understand the tone-deaf behaviour of Germany’s political and intellectual establishment to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, read this excellent @JeremyCliffe extensive essay.
“A fatal attraction”, Jeremy Cliffe, 27 July

Mark Wilson, social impact specialist and managing director of Goodlabs Consulting 
A great piece by @paulmasonnews. Genuine “common ownership” not statist “nationalisation”. This is one of the key economic ideas that will get to the root of the domestic energy cost crisis.
“The case for public ownership of energy has never been stronger”, Paul Mason, 27 July

Jim Spencer, Hansons books auctioneer 
Amazing. Gillray of our Age. One to frame. One for future historians. One for anyone who ever doubted the power and importance of art – and comedy.
On Cold War Steve’s Summer Special cover, 29 July

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[See also: Letter of the week: Creating climate resilience]

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This article appears in the 17 Aug 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Six Months that Changed the World