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14 September 2022

Letter of the week: Labour’s power line

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By New Statesman

In its eagerness to rubbish the Labour Party, John Gray’s article (“The coming autumn crisis”, 9 September) contains puzzling contradictions. At one point he argues that if Labour wins power in 2024, “it could alter the voting system for Westminster and make another Tory majority impossible”. He then goes on to state that “the Labour leader will follow [Truss] into Downing Street for a few years of impotent rule”. I’m not sure that Keir Starmer would regard the elimination of any future Tory majority as impotence.

And it would be interesting to see Gray’s evidence for his assertion that “for Labour’s metropolitan membership, the only thing wrong with neoliberalism is that it has not been tried on a large enough scale”. Surely neoliberalism is an ideology of the Tories and their pals in the US Republican Party?

Gray also writes that “reversing Brexit would mean Britain submitting to the rules of the EU single market, which preclude national governments asserting control over their economies”, yet notes, with apparent approval, that President Macron has taken the “giant electricity utility EDF into full public ownership”.
Michael Heery, Bristol

Exit stage left

Anthony Seldon (“Why Liz Truss will fail”, 2 September) asserts that every prime minister since 1918 has departed office “after election defeat, illness, policy failure or rebellion”. Yet I seem to recall that Harold Wilson left office of his own volition in 1976. There was speculation that his resignation was health-related but this was never proven.

An even clearer example is that of Tony Blair who, in 2007, had not suffered election defeat, illness or any obvious policy failure. It is arguable that his duplicity and bellicosity over Iraq in 2003 should have led to rebellion. However, he managed to convince the majority of Labour MPs that it would not be in their best interests to replace him and self-interest triumphed over values, as it always seems to do in the mother of parliaments.
Dan Taylor, Reading

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THANK YOU

England’s education muddle

Philip Collins (Politics, 26 August) makes some important points about making significant changes to the school curriculum and assessment at age 16, but the argument is lacking in two respects. He gets close to the core issue when he contends that grammar schools are “the indestructible cockroach of Tory prejudices”, but fails to recognise that in England there are now between 70 and 90 different types of schools, and that the GCSE is crucial to brand distinction in a chaotic market for access to school places. He also writes incorrectly about “British education” and “the UK system”, when clearly he is only talking about UK government policy for schools in England.
Helen M Gunter FAcSS, professor emerita, the Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester

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How Brexit defeated Corbyn

In her review of two books on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership (The Critics, 9 September), Lola Seaton notes that both authors “agreed that the decisive factor in Labour’s descent from the poll-defying heights of 2017 to the doldrums of 2019” was its change in policy on Brexit. Given its importance, it is disappointing that there is no account of how it changed.

At the 2019 party conference delegates voted for “a public vote on a deal agreed with the EU giving people a final say between a credible Leave option and Remain”, with Keir Starmer announcing “an incoming Labour government will legislate immediately for that referendum to take place”. Having previously accepted the Leave result, Corbyn seems to have acceded to the delegates’ position instead of providing leadership.
Peter Foster, Edinburgh

Missing music

Yes, more classical music would always be welcome on the BBC (Correspondence, 9 September), especially by composers such as Harrison Birtwistle. But a trawl of BBC iPlayer nets programmes featuring Beethoven, Boulez and Britten, as well as a range of concerts. Aside from one documentary on Lindisfarne’s Alan Hull, there is no meaningful coverage of English folk music. There is admirably joyful coverage of Gaelic gatherings, but scarcely a note from south of the Tweed.
Austen Lynch, Garstang, Lancashire

I too valued Michael Henderson’s column about the BBC and the Proms (The Critics, 2 September), and David Kirk’s letter. The death of the Queen determined there should be no Last Night of the Proms, and many other arts and theatre events were also pulled. There seems a certain irony in the cancellation by the ENO of Don Giovanni as a disgraced member of the royal family is accepting sympathy from the wider public.

After arts and entertainment venues went dark for months during Covid, many who had booked for events are still being prohibited from enjoying them. I hope normal service will resume after the funeral – though I fear for the future of Radio 3, and the demise of BBC Four is depressing.
Julia Edwards, Winchester

Captive audience

I wonder if the word “least” in the question “With which political figure would you least like to be stuck in a lift?” asked of the Subscriber of the Week should be replaced by “most”. I would love to be stuck in a lift with Farage, Rees-Mogg, Patel et al so I could give them a piece of my mind from which they could not immediately escape.
Mark Bignell, Tuddenham, Suffolk

@MarkGoodwin8
Mark Goodwin, teacher, Equal Parts Education
Great NS article by @Anoosh_C about the remarkable life of @Sab_CohenHatton, breaking down stereotypes and success against the odds, and decision making, in particular “decision traps”.
“How firefighting can teach us to live better”, Anoosh Chakelian, 7 September

@TheFootballLaw
Thomas Horton, barrister and founder of the Football Law website 
Great article @Joanna__Hardy in the @NewStatesman. Fully supportive of criminal barristers and what they’re standing for in their strike (soggy or not!)
Joanna Hardy-Susskind’s Diary, 2 September

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This article appears in the 14 Sep 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Succession