Letter of the week: Life after diplomacy

A selection of the best letters received from our readers this week. Email letters@newstatesman.co.uk to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

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Regarding plain speaking by ambassadors to Washington: when John Freeman was editor of the New Statesman in 1962  he described Richard Nixon, then bidding to become governor of California, as “a man of no principle whatsoever except a willingness to sacrifice everything in the cause of Dick Nixon”. In 1969 Nixon was president, Freeman was the new ambassador to the US and, according to Henry Kissinger,  Nixon “swore he would have nothing to do with him”. True to his word, when Harold Wilson organised a dinner to welcome the president to London, Nixon’s entourage let it be known that the president would boycott the dinner if Freeman was present. Wilson went ahead.

In the event, Nixon attended the dinner and in his speech he said, “Some say there’s a new Nixon and they wonder if there’s a new Freeman. I would like to think that’s all behind us. After all, he’s the new diplomat and I’m the new statesman, trying to do our best for peace in the world.” This reduced the normally cold Freeman almost to tears.

For the record, during his time in Washington John Freeman became a close friend of Kissinger (in so far as he was close to anybody) and an admirer of Nixon, but he was not a career diplomat and he disliked the job. He resigned to rescue London Weekend Television.

This might reassure Kim Darroch that there is life after diplomacy.

Hugh Purcell (author of the John Freeman biography “A Very Private Celebrity”)

Brentford,
Greater London

 

Common beliefs

Rory Stewart (Cover Story, 12 July) correctly identifies that politicians have eschewed promulgating the values of patriotism, liberty and courage in favour of wearisome yet expedient arguments surrounding personal wealth and economic growth. This disproportionate focus on the tangible, rather than the intangible facets of modern Britain has reduced policy debate to the “blacks and whites of the extreme” that Mr Stewart observes.

There is, however, a sizeable conglomerate within the electorate who share common beliefs that transcend tribal party affiliation. Hitherto, no politician has attempted to listen or appeal to them. This group favours fiscal policies characterised by increased taxation for wealthy individuals and businesses, greater investment in public services, and renationalisation of certain utilities and industries. On cultural and moral issues they would prefer a more conservative approach: tougher sentences for criminals, tighter control of our borders, and a commitment to honouring the democratic will of the people expressed in the referendum.

In order successfully to market his political agenda, Mr Stewart must target the aforementioned group. Politicians who have sought to ingratiate themselves with their electoral base, on the far left or right, are responsible for creating the current political schism. Moreover, they are ignoring a majority whose beliefs are auspicious for our great country.

James Smith
Liverpool

 

A shrewd article from Rory Stewart, who like Shakespeare’s Prince Hal, has learned how to cut through to ordinary people. Trouble is, we’ve ended up with Falstaff.

Julian Holden
Norwich

 

Is Rory Stewart the long-overdue genuine “New Statesman” we have all been waiting for, or is he a voice crying in the wilderness?

Following initial scepticism, I was frankly moved by the sincerity of his article “What is wrong with us?” All credit to you for publishing this gem. Many other politicians should take serious note of Rory Stewart’s self-evident dutyof care to us all.

This is what we as a country so desperately need. We cannot go on as we are. In fact, for one senior Conservative to voice all that has not been said by a seemingly self-destructive so-called opposition says it all. Maybe, with some genuine leadership, altruism and teamwork there is some hope left for British politics.

Ken Farnol
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

 

In his otherwise excellent assessment of the current state of British politics, Rory Stewart says “Forty per cent of people want to ignore the referendum”, apparently supporting the Brexiteer view that those of us who do so are seriously undermining democracy.

What I expect many are not accepting is rather the interpretation of the result, which has been hijacked to suppress the case for remaining in the European Union.

Putting the result in perspective, of a population of about 52 million eligible to vote, there were 46 million registered voters, of whom just over a third voted to leave.

Even accepting the terms of the referendum, a majority of 4 per cent would not (as signalled by Nigel Farage before the vote) have been accepted as conclusive by the ardent Brexiteers if it had been in favour of Remain. Nor was this a ringing mandate that could justify the description “overwhelming” from Boris Johnston during the ITV Tory leadership debate, and nor could it be considered as telling us much about “the will of the British people”.

Sadly, it does seem we are likely to leave. However, those of us who feel this to be a profound mistake should not be bullied into silence by false referrals to “democracy”.

David Kirk
Dunblane, Stirlingshire

 

What is wrong with us? We are on board a ship of immoral fools from the captain, his officers, and the rich mix of passengers – from the affluent, to the disaffected in steerage – dreaming of a better life.

George Walden (“The ship of English fools”, 12 July) and Rory Stewart’s contributions to the state of our denatured nation are incisive. The revolution of a toxic Brexit is a dangerous prescription for curing the ills so passionately described by Stewart and analysed by Walden.

We need change. Our society needs to evolve to be less socially divisive and more democratic. The political mindset needs to be overhauled. Before many of us is a curtain of cling film that shows us the deprivation but deprives us of the smell; the bacterium does not contaminate our lives.

Politically, a start can be made by realising the potential assets of life beyond the monetary; ensuring our electoral system meets the needs of the diversity of thought and culture; and the mitigation of obscene inequality that concentrates power within a small cohort of the rich, and leaves those on the bottom rungs helpless.

A greater touch of morality is required. Yes, and a sense of shame among those of us who “have”, rather than have not, might touch our hearts and inform our intelligence.

Graham Dummett,
Rochester, Kent

 

George Walden’s analysis of Jeremy Corbyn’s predicament is undeniable, but to be both “trussed” and “spatchcocked” is truly remarkable. Even for a chicken.

Amanda McHugh
Via email

 

Doormat delight

I had to look up “geopolitics” before reading/understanding Helen Thompson’s column ( These Times, 12 July), and now my mind is spiralling with examples, reasons, solutions (I wish) where geopolitical study is critically important for all governments on our planet. This is why I delight in my copy of the New Statesman hitting my doormat each week.

Sally Litherland
Salisbury

 

Wykehamist gripe

David Griffiths made an excellent point regarding the term “Wykehamist” (Correspondence, 12 July). Having read George Walden’s piece in the latest issue, I now count four references to “Wykehamists” in the past three issues.

I can’t help but feel that knowing its definition has pushed out of my memory all sorts of useful information, pin codes, birthdays etc. It’s a smug and gratuitous word, even when used critically.

Please stop.

Joe Rybacki
Via email

 

Birds on the take

Like Tim Pears (Summer Reflection, 12 July), I engage in much wild harvesting. I have no need to scrump, however, as we have a wee orchard. Also, I grow blackcurrants but I suggest he was not beaten by a human consumer. I regularly lose a bush of fruit to the assiduous attentions of my resident blackbirds.

They can strip a bush clean in 20 minutes.

Betsy Barker
Via email

 

On the money

Thank you for James Bridle’s excellent article on money/Bitcoin (“Bitcoin and the money myth”, 12 July). Having read numerous articles in an attempt to understand how digital currency works, this one has brought me the closest .

I am not 100 per cent there yet but am far nearer than I was, thanks to this well-researched and well-written piece.

Alison Barnard
Manchester

 

So farewell, then

The use of the otiose “so” at the beginning of sentences has subliminally irritated me for some time. Thanks to James Gourley’s letter (12 July) I am now cured of this irritation.

Sydney Gibson
Walmer, Kent

 

Labour withdrawal

I was reassured to find Betty Boothroyd expressing my reasons, so much better than I had done, for declining to renew my membership of the Labour Party (Observations, 12 July).

Libby Grimshaw
Nottingham

 

Boris for DC

Surely the best person to be our next ambassador to Washington, DC (for a whole range of reasons) is Boris Johnson.

Martin Eade
Saltdean, East Sussex

 

The TV debates and various media interviews in the Tory leadership contest have made me wonder why the Scots so dislike Boris Johnson.

Their favourite instrument is the bagpipes, and that instrument is essentially a windbag, so surely they should love Boris.

Jeff Horner
Via email

 

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This article appears in the 19 July 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The Facebook fixer