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20 September 2023

Letter of the week: Thatcher’s brief exile

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I would like to take issue with Kwasi Kwarteng’s view (Cover Story, 15 September) that “the two great reforming governments were New Labour… and Margaret Thatcher’s. It’s no surprise that a lot of their thinking was done in the long years of opposition.” True, Blair was in opposition from 1983 and served an apprenticeship until he was elected Labour leader in 1994, but this is time Thatcher never had. Four years as leader of the opposition, from 1975, after serving as education secretary under Edward Heath, can’t be defined as “long years”, especially as in the latter part of that period the Labour government did not have a majority and relied on tacit Liberal support.

She relied on her chancellor, Geoffrey Howe, to implement her monetarist policies from 1979 to 1983. The economic policies in her first term were failing, with growing unemployment and strikes in the engineering unions and the first miners’ strike. Instead, her premiership was rescued by the Falklands War, which arguably was caused by defence cuts and the proposed removal of the patrol vessel Endurance from Falkland Islands waters.
Steph Harrison, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

The Trussite terror

I don’t believe it! Months after causing the financial disaster Rachel Cunliffe describes so well (Cover Story, 15 September), Liz Truss and her allies are attempting to rewrite history. The culprits were not Truss and the Tories. Rather, the Bank of England, Treasury officials, the Office for Budget Responsibility, Joe Biden, who criticised her tax cuts, and the “Global Left” and the “Greta Thunbergs of this world” all conspired to remove her.

Every few decades, as Keynes observed, “madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back” so that dangerous notions like eugenics, “Trussonomics” or climate denial get airings. The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is that scribbler.
David Murray, Wallington, Surrey

Never have I laughed so heartily at a New Statesman article as I did at Rachel Cunliffe’s piece. Not, you understand, at the quality of the author’s insights, but at the stooges who came to the rescue of “Trussonomics”, such as Mark Littlewood of the IEA, and his belief that “the longer the adults are back in the room and things don’t improve, the more the Truss diagnosis and programme will get a second hearing”.
James Martin, Southend-on-Sea, Essex

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I’d like to thank Mark Littlewood. I’d never heard the expression “libertarian jihadists” before he used it, somewhat facetiously, to describe himself and other free marketeers. But rest assured I’ll be using it from now on.
Gerwyn Moseley, Gilwern, Monmouthshire

Lessons in tyranny

Regarding Brendan Simms’ article (The History Essay, 15 September), I wonder how many readers know that 17 September is the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s 1939 invasion of the eastern half of Poland under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. There is no mention of the Nazi-Soviet alliance or of how much Hitler had learned from Stalin, as detailed in Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands. For far too long the West has been perpetrating the Soviet or Russian view of the Second World War and forgetting how multi-dimensional it was in Poland, the Baltic States and Finland.
Marina Donald (born in Latvia 1943), Edinburgh

Stable genuises

While I share Quinn Slobodian’s distaste for the alt-right politics lurking behind IQ fetishism and welcome its robust exposure (The NS Essay, 15 September), I was disappointed that he found no room to touch upon the epistemological flaw at the heart of the claims underpinning “intelligence quotient” scores. IQ tests, complete with their impressive metrics, measure only one thing – an individual’s aptitude in undertaking such a test.

One aspect of the dramatis personae of Slobodian’s article stood out: the absence of women. Funny how it’s always men who need to measure how large theirs is.
John Crawley, Beverley, East Yorkshire

Banning the Bully

Will Dunn (Comment, 15 September) makes good points about the social, economic and political trends that have created the XL Bully craze, but he is wrong that arguments against banning the breed are “spurious”. The culture and business around these animals will move on to other (perhaps bigger and more dangerous) breeds. Dealing with the problem by regulating breeders and ownership (reintroducing licensing, mandating basic training) and enforcing higher standards of animal welfare is far harder, but much more likely to address the actual problem.
Martin McGrath, St Albans, Hertfordshire

As somebody once attacked by a scrapyard dog while jogging (and with the scar to prove it), I have long believed all dogs (guide and hearing dogs excepted) should be muzzled while in public spaces. Muzzles don’t hurt the dogs, but they do prevent them from hurting people.
Mike Harding, Langcliffe, North Yorkshire

Making crime pay

Anna Leszkiewicz’s hatchet job on Richard Osman and his readers (The Critics, 15 September) showed contempt for ordinary people – many of them, like me, presumably also New Statesman readers – and our dull little lives, watching Inspector Morse, eating at Pizza Express and shopping at Robert Dyas. Personally, I find Osman’s books funny and quietly wise on the human condition. What’s more, I rather enjoy the success of this working-class, visually impaired kid from Billericay who has made a career simply by being ferociously bright. More power to him, I say.
Paul Kirkley, Cambridge

Richard Osman’s books are popular and it strikes me that intellectual snobbery is at play here. I don’t think I want to read his books now but maybe later in life or when I am tired and want some light entertainment I will. What would be wrong with that?
Claire Leroux, Twickenham, Greater London

The art of the pun

Whomever came up with the elegant caption “Committed contributor – Dr William Chester Minor” to accompany his photo in The Dictionary People review (The Critics, 15 September) deserves a medal.
Dave McElroy, Reading

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This article appears in the 20 Sep 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers