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5 October 2022

Letter of the week: A doomed dash for growth

Write to letters@newstatesman.co.uk to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

By New Statesman

Your coverage of the “Truss Delusion” (30 September) was excellent, but there is nothing new about the dash for growth, which crops up only too often in British politics. It never works, because our economic problems are deep-seated, complex and long-term, while the answers from politicians in a hurry are always superficial, simplistic and short-term.

Economic growth is not a mystery. It comes from sustained investment in productivity, technology and management; from education and training in skills; from robust transport and energy infrastructure; from sound public institutions at local, regional and national levels, and properly financed public services; and from confidence in a political system that does not lurch from one extreme to another every few years.

Britain is weak on all these counts, and there is nothing in the new plan to remedy those weaknesses. Liz Truss is stamping boldly on the accelerator without first making sure that there is an engine under the bonnet.
Keith Richardson, Kingston upon Thames, Greater London

Free market freefall

Further to Jeremy Cliffe’s excellent article (Cover Story, 30 September) on the ideas driving Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s policies, we have already tried monetarism and Hayekian theories. Rampant capitalist individualism led to sub-prime mortgage speculations and the 2008 financial crash. Deregulation led to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

The ever more pressing issue is the ruination of our planet. We need collective responsibility and robust state intervention.
Dr Lorna Selfe, Leominster, Herefordshire

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THANK YOU

Jeremy Cliffe does a good job of charting the evolution of the ideas that appear to inspire the new Prime Minister. But he does not perhaps sufficiently acknowledge that ultimately these ideas are a means to perpetuating the political dominance of a small wealthy elite, especially in the countries that have gone furthest in applying them: Britain and the US.

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In my recent book, The Conservative Counter-Revolution, I argue that many of the things that most trouble Western societies – especially increased inequality and lower economic growth – are the direct outcome of a conservative reaction against the US New Deal and the European welfare state.
Professor Roger Brown, Southampton

By all accounts Kwasi Kwarteng is a very clever man with a first in classics and history and a PhD in economic history, both from Cambridge – which goes to show that IQ is one thing, common sense another.

Tories since Margaret Thatcher have been infatuated with “trickle-down economics”. However, in 2016 the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz found that the post-Second World War evidence does not support the idea, but rather “trickle-up economics”, whereby more money in the pockets of the poor or the middle class benefits everyone.
Alexandra MacRae, Letham, Angus

Why Labour should support PR

Alan Pavelin’s letter (Correspondence, 30 September) on electoral reform was very timely, given the growing support in Labour for proportional representation (PR). It is perfectly conceivable that the party may secure a majority of the total votes cast in the next election and yet lose to the Conservatives because of the workings of the first-past-the-post voting (FPTP) system.

As a Labour member I would greatly prefer to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and Green Party MPs under a PR system than to go on suffering future periods of Tory misrule under FPTP. An outright majority for Labour at the next election seems a distinct possibility, but this must not lull the party into a false sense of security.
David Slinger, member of the Forest of Dean constituency Labour Party

If Keir Starmer and his chums choose to ignore the overwhelming call at Labour’s conference for proportional representation, then they deserve all they get at the next election. In New Zealand we’ve had PR since 1996 and still the sky didn’t fall – rather, it transformed for the better the quality of our democracy.
Alister Browne, Palmerston North, New Zealand

The case for nationalisation

I read with growing interest Will Dunn’s interview with Dieter Helm (Encounter, 30 September), which reinforced my long-held belief that the foundations of the state should be in public control, meaning the supply of gas, water and electricity, the transport system, significant housing provision and the NHS. Managing them for the long term and the benefit of the people also provides a sound basis for businesses to operate and private enterprise to flourish. Keir Starmer’s recent proposal for a “British Energy” company is a first step in this direction. Let us hope it is expanded to include all of the state’s foundations.
Roger Millard, Bristol

Cromwell’s champion

Erica Wagner writes that before Hilary Mantel wrote Wolf Hall Thomas Cromwell’s “consequential role in the reign of Henry VIII had somehow been previously ignored” (The Critics, 30 September).

But in three substantial academic books and many articles the late Geoffrey Elton (1921-94) wrote at length about Cromwell’s central role in the politics of the 1530s. Elton’s interpretation was (and is) controversial, but it is hardly unknown, not only to Tudor specialists but also to undergraduates and even schoolchildren.
CDC Armstrong, Belfast

Fixing the roof

The Spotlight articles by Lord Deben and Samir Jeraj (30 September) highlight how short we are of imaginative thinking. I have just returned from Austria and Slovenia, where there are more roof panels on houses than we have in Britain. This should be a standard fitting – a requirement under the planning process.
Christopher Yaxley, Shrewsbury

Capital error

As amazing as Samarkand appears to be (you don’t get into the title of a Corto Maltese book for nothing), the city where Vladimir Putin was left waiting (Reporter at Large, 30 September) is not the capital of Uzbekistan. That is still the probably much less thrilling Tashkent.
Pedro Cordeiro, Lisbon, Portugal

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[See also: Sam Tarry’s deselection has inflamed Labour’s factional divisions]

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This article appears in the 05 Oct 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Crashed!