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9 November 2022

Letter of the week: What Britain has lost

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Consciously or unconsciously echoing Tony Benn, William Waldegrave correctly identifies “non-Marxist socialism based on Methodism and the cooperative movement” as driving “much of the rise of the Labour Party” (Cover Story, 4 November). He neglects to mention that institutionally Labour drew its strength and development from the trade unions, which have not only bankrolled the party but historically nurtured and provided some outstanding politicians, such as Ernest Bevin and James Callaghan. Trade unions were ignored as critical components of civil society in David Cameron’s “Big Society”, which was supposedly inspired by the Burkean tradition, where the “little platoons” sustained social cohesion and stability and provided a crucial buffer against the predation of an overbearing state.

Waldegrave, correctly in my view, also laments the loss of the paternalistic tradition exemplified by the likes of Rab Butler, Harold Macmillan and, for all his flaws, Edward Heath. The prospect of “the rougher beast” taking their place fills many of us with considerable foreboding.
Paul Thomson, Mobberley, Cheshire

The past-it party

Last week’s NS (4 November) has a cover story about right-wing politics by a history professor, and a second by William Waldegrave, an ex-Conservative cabinet minister, also mainly about Conservative policies. One could be excused for thinking that there is no opposition party in the UK. Surely it is time to hear from the Labour Party about its policies. As Andrew Marr points out (Politics, 4 November), they need to present an alternative vision.
Mary Davies, Lymington, Hampshire

William Waldegrave’s eulogy makes it clear that the Tories need a long vacation in opposition. At least a generation. Preferably a century.
Ian Fraser, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Doesn’t add up

It is disappointing to read Wes Streeting in your Spotlight supplement on healthcare (28 October) bandying about uncosted claims for increased expenditure, all paid for by “abolishing the non-dom tax status enjoyed by a privileged few”.

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Those who currently enjoy this tax break are unlikely to be entirely passive if it is abolished. The UK’s tax regime is, in this respect, no more generous than that of many of our neighbours. Some would leave for more congenial territories – with a net disbenefit to the UK economy. Streeting needs to show the gross cost of additional doctors, nurses, midwives, health visitors set against the net impact to the UK Exchequer of the non-dom tax changes.
Richard Budden, Tisbury, Wiltshire

The invisible “an”

Colin Kidd quotes the expression “the invisible hand” in his attempt to debunk the myth that Adam Smith was the founder of the free market (The Critics, 4 November). The problem with this fetishised expression is, however, even more severe than is recognised: Smith did not say it. In The Wealth of Nations he spoke of “an” invisible hand, not “the”. The difference is profound. “The” implies a godlike force, endowed with strategy, power and order; “an” implies something much more accidental, random and out of control. I wonder whose invisible hand first misquoted it?
Dr Valerie Hamilton, Kent

Get him out of here

John Gray’s argument that proportional representation is now “an unavoidable necessity” (State of Disorder, 28 October) is further boosted by Matt Hancock appearing on a TV show while still receiving his parliamentary salary. I have lived in Suffolk for nearly 40 years, and at every general election my vote counts for nothing.
Graham Judge, Barrow, Suffolk

Clarity on dangerous dogs

Will Dunn’s article “Why would anyone lobby on behalf of dangerous dogs?” (NS online, October 2022) presented an ill-informed view of the animal welfare sector’s stance. We have been deeply shocked by the tragic events this year but strongly believe that the current approach is not fit for purpose.

Aggression in dogs is a complicated behaviour. It is not simply a product of breed. The Dangerous Dogs Act suggests only four types of dogs are dangerous and distracts from the truth: that the behaviour of any dog is determined by how they are bred, trained, socialised and treated.
The Dog Control Coalition: Battersea, Blue Cross, British Veterinary Association, Dogs Trust, Kennel Club, RSPCA and Scottish SPCA

Cold comfort

Nicholas Lezard (Down and Out, 4 November) writes: “You know what else, though, is good at keeping out the cold? A clear, golden, alcoholic liquid made in Scotland.” Sad to say, Nicholas is not right. Alcohol dilates the blood vessels close to the surface of the skin, which makes the body lose heat more quickly.
Richard Dargan, Coulsdon, Surrey

The greatest

Andy Leslie (Correspondence, 4 November) mentions the truly great British football managers but omits arguably the greatest of them all: Bob Paisley.
Ian Hartgroves, Stourbridge, West Midlands

Carys Roberts, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy Research 
In 2020 @IPPR sent a letter to the BBC asking them to reconsider their coverage of fiscal events, especially inappropriate use of household analogies. This excellent piece describes the subsequent review of reporting on tax and public spending.
Inside the BBC reckoning over its economic coverage”, Anoosh Chakelian, 1 November 

Simon Sebag Montefiore, historian
This is a good article on Holocaust kitsch fiction. Don’t agree with everything in it, but much of it. And Ann Manov is right on this: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas should never be used to teach the history of the Holocaust.
The moral corruption of Holocaust fiction”, Ann Manov, 17 October

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[See also: Letter of the week: Time for a change]

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This article appears in the 09 Nov 2022 issue of the New Statesman, On the brink