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4 October 2023

Letter of the week: Category errors

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By New Statesman

Is it useful any more to class politicians and their parties as either right- or left-leaning (Cover Story, 29 September)? Can we really say these categories do not cloud our assessment of our appalling situation? The problems that beset us now will remain whoever wins the next general election. It is solutions that are needed, not arguments over whose political philosophy is better.

Lockdowns, the war in Ukraine, the 2008 crash, the Iraq War, Brexit and our inability to control social media have all played their part in bringing the UK here. No single party can address the country’s sickness, but both parties could, working together. A collective approach would be more effective than taking bites out of each other. Proportional representation is another change we must bring about; a three-party system is not sufficient to tackle the political matters we are dealing with today. If we don’t accept this, in 14 months the IMF will have to bail us out for the second time.
David Murphy, Cowdenbeath

[See also: Letter of the week: The allure of Olympian thinking]

Rights and wrong ’uns

I was intrigued that Rory Stewart got in at number 20 on your Right Power List. You quote him as saying: “The Conservative Party is above all the party of moderation, of pragmatism, of common sense.” It is interesting that not a single one of your nominees in places one to 19 on the list shows these characteristics in their rhetoric or ideology.
Mike Gibbons, Cartmel, Cumbria

Coming in at number 41 of your Right Power List you have the Sun political editor Harry Cole. I have not been able to take Cole seriously since in 2017 he quoted Gerry Adams saying Sinn Féin would not take an oath to the Queen to prevent any EU withdrawal bill going ahead. “No harm to her,” said Adams, which Cole quoted as having been added “menacingly”.

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Anyone with such a profound lack of capacity for context or irony is surely more “common-tator” than rigorous journalistic force.
Fionnbharr Rodgers, Rostrevor, County Down

I was unhappy that the King was put at number four in your Right Power List. Old fashioned and a traditionalist he may be, but he has helped more than a million youngsters into work with the Prince’s Trust. I understand the New Statesman doesn’t approve of hereditary monarchs, but he doesn’t deserve to be placed in the middle of a group of right-wing politicians.
Tim Mann, Waterlooville, Hampshire

The unruly party

I read Andrew Marr’s feature (Inside Westminster, 29 September) with interest and agreement, because the chance of Rishi Sunak uniting his dysfunctional party is for the birds or the right-wing press.

The Conservatives have morphed into a truculent entity, with discipline apparently beneath many of its ministers and MPs. I wonder what past members would think of the scandals and abrupt changes to policy ad infinitum? Not a lot, I would surmise. There was something more controlled about this party in the past – or was it ever thus, but just off the Tory scale now?
Judith A Daniels, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

Put in the hard yards

In 2014 John Mearsheimer argued that “the West has been moving into Russia’s backyard and threatening its core strategic interest” (The NS Interview, 29 September). Perhaps the likelihood of war would diminish if the location of all the globe’s “backyards” was clarified. The United Nations could devise a map of the world in which these hazardous “backyards” are delineated. Presumably every country has its own, not just big powers like Russia but also smaller states such as Ukraine.
Ivor Morgan, Lincoln

Fighting talk

Nietzsche may, as John Gray asserts (The Critics, 29 September), have disliked militarism, but in his later writings he stridently affirms war. In book five of The Gay Science, published in 1887, Nietzsche says that, thanks to Napoleon, we have now entered “the classic age of war”, which he expects to last for two centuries. And in the section of Thus Spoke Zarathustra headed “On War and Warrior-Peoples”, his prophet says: “You say it is the good cause that hallows even war? I say to you: it is the good war that hallows every cause.” I suspect Bronze Age Pervert is more faithful to Nietzsche than Gray admits.
Ritchie Robertson, Emeritus Schwarz-Taylor Professor of German, University of Oxford, and author of “Friedrich Nietzsche” (2022)

Serialist question

“I cannot remember everything. I must have been unconscious most of the time.” These are the opening words of Arnold Schoenberg’s eight-minute declamation with orchestra, A Survivor from Warsaw, featured in William Boyd’s review of Time’s Echo (The Critics, 29 September). In the late Sixties/early Seventies, students at the Royal College of Art made an excellent film of the work, available on 16mm film. Can someone track it down?
Tony Hodbod, Haslingden, Lancashire 

Mystery solved

In response to James Martin’s query about “intellectual snobbery” (Correspondence, 29 September), the following is from the internet: “An intellectual snob can be defined as a person who takes pride in his/her own knowledge… They tend to become judgemental about others to boost their own egos.” Having high standards is simply a matter of exercising choice over what one engages with based on experience.

Chambers also gives the older definition of “snob” as being a “shoemaker, cobbler”. Maybe the shift was linked to having an excessive pride in one’s shoes?
David Cockayne, Lymm, Cheshire

Nigel Farage, former leader of the Brexit Party and Ukip
I am grateful for this interesting analysis from the @NewStatesman.
The New Statesman’s Right Power List, 27 September

Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media
Absolutely howling at Tim Davie, the BBC director-general, making the @NewStatesman “power list” for Conservatives.
The New Statesman’s Right Power List

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[See also: Letter of the week: Thatcher’s brief exile]

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This article appears in the 04 Oct 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Labour in Power