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30 November 2022

Letter of the week: Transatlantic cousins

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

By New Statesman

Andrew Marr (Politics, 25 November) claims to “feel far more affinity for the French, Dutch, Germans and Italians” than with “furiously divided, culture-warring Americans”. No doubt this view plays well with many New Statesman readers. But it is predictably bien pensant – and perhaps a little lazy.

Apart from the fact that such European countries have their own cultural schisms right now – hence the status of culture warriors such as Marine Le Pen in France and Giorgia Meloni in Italy – Marr seems indifferent to the idea that British political culture has historically more in common with the United States than with our European neighbours. Given the record of most European states during the past century, this should be a source of relief.

In terms of “affinity”, it is also surprising that he discards the importance of shared language. Is this because of multilingual talents he modestly conceals? Or does he assume that everyone in Europe now speaks English?
Richard Kelly, Manchester

EU and I

The excellent column by Andrew Marr (Politics, 25 November) identifies the failure of leadership demonstrated by Keir Starmer in respect of any future relationship that this country needs to have with the EU.

Starmer’s line that the Labour Party policy is to “make Brexit work” is a completely meaningless soundbite, and makes the opposition complicit in the Brexit myth peddled by the ideologues in the Tory party. If Keir Starmer wants the majority of voters to see him as a credible future prime minister, he needs to demonstrate clear political leadership and declare that, if elected, his government will immediately begin negotiations with the EU to undo the severe consequences of the hard Brexit foisted upon this country by Boris Johnson. Otherwise, he does not deserve the chance to lead.
Graham Judge, Barrow, Suffolk

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THANK YOU

World Cup woes

Reflecting on your leader on the Qatar World Cup (25 November), what saddens me about the event is the resigned, dismissive moral relativism. The values of equality, fairness and justice for LGBTQ people, women and other minorities must be defended and promoted across the world. A World Cup in Qatar presents the perfect opportunity to stand up for human rights and against state-sanctioned bigotry. Fifa should hang its head.
Sebastian Monblat, Surbiton, Greater London

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All Today’s yesterdays

In that tired political phrase, I don’t recognise Peter Williams’ take on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (Notebook, 25 November). To put this opinion to the test, I took a half-hour slice of one show. We got an acute analysis of the dire state of northern trains, the discovery of a Roman settlement beneath a Rutland field, the real thrust of the Chinese Covid protests, a 70-tonne Argentinian super dinosaur, plus the Bishop of Burnley on Advent. Bright, informed, nimble broadcasting, three hours a day. Our sorry world brilliantly ventilated.
Graham Hurley, Exmouth, Devon

How about a new mission for the BBC and Today as a champion of public data and its interpretation and presentation? A new “epistemological mission” (Ros Atkins writ large, perhaps). What could be more Reithian? This would be using one NS article, the fascinating Encounter with Georgina Sturge (Notebook, 25 November), as a solution to another.
Rupert Evenett, London SE10

Peter Williams argues the Today programme is too dry. On the contrary, its factual, non-musical nature is its strength. I do not fear for it as everyone was at home during the pandemic and had time to listen, whereas now they are working again.
Elizabeth McFarlane, The National Mathematics and Science College

I was particularly puzzled by the comment that the Today programme sounds as if it comes from a “hermetically sealed world”. We used to call it studio-quality sound. As for the lack of music: what would the writer suggest for reports on Russian drone attacks? “The Ride of the Valkyries”?
David Perry, Cambridge, Sony Gold Winner, Best Arts Programme, 1999

Peter Williams’ comprehensive takedown of the Today programme rang many bells and led me to wonder why I hadn’t become a former listener. I suspect it’s the interesting interviewees. However, far too many are interrupted more than necessary.
Les Bright, Exeter, Devon

The King’s English

Pippa Bailey (Deleted Scenes, 25 November) hitched King Charles’s private usage to the (unquestionable) decline in the English language – a non sequitur – and retailed the complaints over several centuries of men of letters. But somewhat before Ms Bailey’s birth, the huge influence of radio and especially television on our language became irresistible and far from benign.

Howard Jacobson is my hero: if you want people to believe what you are saying, omit “incredible” and “incredibly” and say “surprising”, “amazing” – or “very”. Another horror is “multiple” when “several”, “many” or “numerous” would be more exact.
Ann Lawson Lucas, Beverley, East Yorkshire

Generations of genius

Dermot Dolan (Correspondence, 25 November) lauds the elegance of Bobby Charlton. But before Charlton, Tom Finney, the “Preston Plumber”, graced the English attack with his beguiling fluency. And the the greatest player I have ever seen was Duncan Edwards who, had he survived Munich, might have prevented Bobby Moore from becoming England’s captain.
Ray Evison, Canterbury

The unforgettable

As a social worker I have never asked anyone who the prime minister is (This England, 25 November). I may need to establish if a person with dementia can make certain decisions about their life, but more general memory tests are carried out by health professionals. I was told many years ago, however, that the prime minister question was not used when Margaret Thatcher was in power; even very confused people knew who she was.
Rebecca Linton, Leicester

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[See also: Keir Starmer’s mildly authoritarian streak chimes perfectly with these troubled times]

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This article appears in the 30 Nov 2022 issue of the New Statesman, World Prince