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1 November 2023

Letter of the week: Temperate conservatism

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By New Statesman

Congratulations on giving a fine platform to David Gauke these past few years. He uses it well, and in The Case for the Centre Right he and his contributors show how the centre right has lost control of the Tory party. As William Waldegrave notes in his review (Critics, 27 October), it’s vital we see “the re-establishment of the power and the confidence of those with a temperate and civil habit of mind on the right, from which good policy will flow”.

There are voters who favour this moderation, but unfortunately it’s in short supply among the Conservative Party membership, who thought Liz Truss was a good idea. Those of us who identify with Gauke and other defrocked Tories of 2019 should view the demise of the liberal Republicans in the US as a forewarning of the fate of the One Nation tradition here. Waldegrave’s final comment, referring to the remaining moderates, is apt: “Good luck to them: I fear they will need it.”

But we should not be gloomy. Rather than wasting energy trying to bring back this thinking through the Tories, let that party run to its Faragist fate and instead campaign for an electoral system in which the centre right would be represented.
Rob Marshall, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

A census for consensus?

Andrew Marr’s article “The cloud of unreason” (27 October) was both insightful and intellectually thought-provoking. His calls for greater power to “gatekeeper” editors strongly reminded me of a similar sentiment towards new media in recent ruminations from the revered democratic theorist Jürgen Habermas.

Following Habermas, perhaps a way to remedy the current democratic impasse would be to encourage all voters to air their political grievances and experiences through a national census-style process. If all perspectives are made visible by the light, can a dark cloud still cast a shadow?
Hannah Redman, North Yorkshire

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An uninformed public

Many readers would have been startled to read that there are Arab governments that “must secretly wish for Israeli success” in bringing about the eradication of Hamas as a military and political force (“The great unravelling”, 27 October). When the UK decided to invade Iraq in 2003, how many members of the cabinet had even an elementary understanding of the significance of the division between Shia and Sunni in the Islamic world? John Gray writes: “We have entered a world of imperial rivalries like that before 1914.” And once again we have entered it in sleepwalking-style, as uninformed about the complexities of the politics of Gaza as we were about the politics of Sarajevo.
Ivor Morgan, Lincoln

Brutal regime

Carolyn Beckingham puts her finger on it (Correspondence, 27 October). The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has been instrumental in exposing the 1988 massacre of 30,000 supporters of the NCRI’s sister organisation, the Mojahedin-e-Khalq. In five-minute “trials”, those who had refused to relinquish their allegiance to that entity were found guilty and sentenced to immediate execution.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi was a leading member of Tehran’s “Death Committee” and has blood on his hands. The UK should work towards ensuring an end to his impunity rather than engaging in further appeasement of this brutal regime.
Malcolm Fowler, solicitor and higher court advocate (retired), founder member of Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran, Birmingham

Questions of free will

Alan MacKay’s letter (Correspondence, 27 October) continues the discussion of free will started by Thomas Nagel’s review of I’ve Been Thinking by Daniel Dennett. I’m sticking to my long-held view that we should act on the assumption that we have agency in our decision-making. However, I did wonder whether some embodiment of AI might start to ask itself if it possessed free will, or just thought it did. Unknowable I suppose, but that truly would be – to pinch Alan’s phrase – a source of wonder.
John Filby, Ashover, Derbyshire

Romanticised view

I’ve always admired Anthony Horowitz’s work, but it seems he’s not as clever as I thought (Q&A, 20 October). Who would want to be a child in the Second World War? I was one and learned lifelong fear from the whine of sirens, and being carried in the dark to the air-raid shelter and seeing houses opposite engulfed in flames.
Ann Lawson Lucas, Edinburgh

Gateway to the Midlands

Tom Hill underplays the significance of the Watford Gap (“Credibility Gap” 27 October). It’s not just a service area. Uniquely, it’s where the MI, the A5, the Grand Union Canal and the rail main line to the north-west are in very close proximity – a few hundred yards apart, in fact. It is in many ways the gateway to the Midlands, though not perhaps to Galashiels.
Colin Richards, Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Powerful prose

Prompted by Rowan Williams’s review of Emily Wilson’s new translation ofthe Iliad (Critics, 8 September), I bought a copy and began reading her introduction. A few paragraphs in, she describes how the poem is framed by “scenes of loss and restitution” and how these events differ according to whether they occur in the context of peace or war. Compensation may be possible in times of peace, “but in war, killers recognise no binding obligation to compensate the families of their victims. The only way the bereaved can recoup their losses is to kill the killer – whose comrades will demand vengeance in their turn. Killing begets killing, death begets death, and every loss of life generates further loss of life.”
Nigel Jeffcoat, Scarborough

Nicola in Wonderland

In her review of A Memoir of My Former Self by Hilary Mantel (27 October), Nicola Sturgeon writes that Mantel thought Lewis Carroll’s A Grief Observed should be “placed on a shelf that doesn’t exist”. Well, that would certainly be an appropriate location, as the book named by Sturgeon doesn’t exist. The author of A Grief Observed was CS Lewis.
Dr Chris Morris, Kidderminster, Worcestershire

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This article appears in the 01 Nov 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Labour Revolts