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5 August 2014updated 07 Sep 2021 11:14am

Letter of the Week: What Lincoln knew


By New Statesman

Michael Kenny and Nick Pearce let the media off too lightly in their analysis of our dismal political future (“The end of the party”, 25 July).
Ed Miliband has been “subjected to sustained and personal criticism” largely because our media have infantilised political debate, whether in the witless sneering of Have I Got News For You or the platitudes and inanities of such mediocrities as the BBC chooses to be its political correspondents. Is it beyond the capacity of Ed’s team to play these people at their own game? Accused of being two-faced, Abraham Lincoln asked: “If I were, would I wear this one?”
Honest self-deprecating wit can’t be beaten. If we want a pretty face we can vote for David Cameron – after all, he’s got plenty.
Oh, and anyone who thinks it egregious to compare the problems Ed will face in office with Lincoln’s doesn’t live in the north of England.
Michael McManus
Via email

Penny’s dilemma

Laurie Penny wrote a magnificent column about the conflict in Gaza (In the Red, 25 July). She is right that a Jewish voice speaking out against this carries more weight. She is also right about the fear that drives the Israelis and about the abused becoming the abuser.

I have been to Israel once; on arrival at Tel Aviv, one of our party was detained and questioned. She was on a Catholic pilgrimage but she was a young Londoner whose mother had a Jordanian passport. She was also epileptic and the security staff would not believe her until she collapsed and a medic was called. What an introduction!

Yes, we understand the history and the paranoia. We need a new start with newer generations who can lay down the past, be honest about what happened, and forgive.

Father Kevin O’Donnell
Peacehaven, East Sussex

Laurie Penny’s psychological explanation for Israel’s behaviour in Gaza doesn’t wash. There is a much simpler explanation than the abused becoming the abuser. The reality is that Israel behaves as all settler states have behaved towards their “native” populations.

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John Newsinger

I want to thank Laurie Penny for her article. It is the most moving, balanced article I have yet read on the Gaza conflict. I shall carry a copy of it around with me to show my friends.

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Vivienne Rendall
Haltwhistle, Northumberland

Hamas in hiding

John Crick (Correspondence, 25 July) writes of the current situation in Gaza: “In terms of numbers killed, there is a wide gap between the two sides [Israel and Hamas]. Morally, I’m not so sure.”

Given that those who are dying in Gaza aren’t Hamas but mostly civilians (a disproportionate number of whom are children), I wonder what he considers the morality of their position to be?

Sophie Charman-Blower
Via email

Strikes on Gaza

In the light of the Israeli shelling of United Nations schools, does this not count as the New Statesman’s most
mealy-mouthed editorial line ever: “It can seem at times as if a kind of collective punishment is being visited upon all Palestinians” (Leader, 25 July)? If you’re going to say it, say it: a collective punishment is being visited upon all Palestinians.

Chris Simms
Stockport, Greater Manchester

Blaming the UN for today’s insecurity – like blaming the EU – is silly. Both institutions are only as good as the national leaderships that control them. What has happened is that the democracies have no philosophy or ideology of security, which, like “rearmament” in the 1930s, is a now banned word on the liberal left.

Successive British prime ministers have sucked up to Vladimir Putin, have indulged jihadi killers if they opposed regimes we don’t like, and none had warned about the deep hate of Jews that pervades the Hamas charter.

Denis Macshane
London SW1

Human shields

Hats off to Jeremy Bowen for his courage and perception in reporting on the continuing tragedy in Gaza (Notebook, 25 July). His ending – “I don’t think anyone knows how to put the fire out” – points to the essence of the tragedy.

Richard Vernon

You say that Jeremy Bowen’s assertion that he saw no evidence that Hamas uses civilians as human shields is “an important insight” (Leader, 25 July). It is no more than one journalist’s opinion. Hamas stockpiles armaments in residential areas, in schools and in hospitals. Israel warns civilians before it starts the bombings. If you or Mr Bowen took the trouble to speak to senior military personnel with experience in aerial warfare, you would hear that possibly never in the history of modern war has a combatant done so much to avoid civilian casualties.

David Konn
Hong Kong

Stop at BBC bias

I despaired at the horribly biased article by Uri Dromi (“Despair is not an option in Gaza”, Observations, 25 July). I’d expect this from the BBC – I protested outside Broadcasting House because of their obvious bias. I really don’t want to be spitting feathers at an article by a spokesman for two Israeli premiers.

Conor Cusack

Selfish voting

The most disturbing aspect of Tom Clark’s “Why hard times became harsher” (Observations, 25 July), and perhaps its most telling comment on post-Thatcher Britain, is the assumption that people will vote for something only if they perceive it to be in their own interest.

Not only is it selfish, antisocial and immoral to vote only because it will benefit “me and mine”, but it should be a source of shame for any decent person.

Richard Tagart
Antwerp, Belgium

Two Burnsides

John Burnside has at least two distinct styles of writing. The style I look forward to enormously is his poetic writing about nature and the countryside. But there is another style, which he uses when he writes on the subject of wind-power: here, he becomes angry and supercilious (Nature, 18 July).

It would be better if he avoided this subject because, like it or lump it, we are a windy island and our exposed areas will be covered with turbines. These will harness free energy.

Melanie Oxley
London SW4

Name the problem

Penny Jaques (Correspondence, 18 July) writes: “The expression ‘first name’ is fine for everyone.” This is not so. Many of us have first (and sometimes second) names that we prefer not to use; I haven’t used mine since the 1950s. What’s wrong with “forename”?

Sebastian Robinson

I agree with Penny Jacques that the term “Christian name” is no longer appropriate in a multicultural society; but “first name” doesn’t work either, because, for many cultures, their first name is what we term our surname.

Judith Taylor
Disley, Cheshire

James Gourley refers (Correspondence, 25 July) to an objection to misuse of the phrase “Christian name” as po-faced political correctness. This reminds me of a visit in 1991 to a friend in a secure mental ward. A staff member asked for my surname, wrote it, then asked for my Christian name. I said, “I don’t have one: I’m not Christian, I haven’t been baptised,” at which he angrily demanded I convert to his faith. I wondered: should I complain to the management, knowing the godly lout was in a position to be quite unpleasant to my friend, the patient?

Connaire Kensit
London SW15

Only way is local

It is part of the tragedy of our times that serial reactionary controversialists such as David Selbourne (NS Essay, 18 July) can always get print space while genuine alternative thought remains marginalised.

We live in an era where consumerist overproduction is destroying our planet. Rather than embrace localism, our working-class soldiers are fighting “wars for oil” that subsidise exploitative foreign production, and keep our own underclass unemployed. What we desperately need to do is relearn the left’s lessons of redistributive sharing and rationing of our communal resources.

Dr Gavin Lewis

Blissful squeeze

Thank you, William Boyd. Today I squeezed my way on to a crowded train. Luckily I opened the NS to your “Between two eternities” (What Makes Us Human?, 11 July) and Arvo Pärt’s Te Deum filtered into my earphones. What could have been a frustrating time turned into a reinvigorating journey.

John Waterworth
Orpington, Kent

Monorail mania

Nice to know that old doombags Will Self jets in to London City Airport (Madness of Crowds, 18 July). Clearly, the old grey cells get fuddled, though – the DLR has two running rails and a conductor rail. Inefficient monorails have one rail (slight clue in the name, perhaps?). If it’s any consolation, Tennyson (“Locksley Hall”) thought trains ran in grooves – but I thought that you lefties were clear-sighted, tech-savvy harbingers of a Noo Age?

Geoff Clarke
Via email

Spot the joke

Oh dear, Ms Burgess (Correspondence, 25 July). Have you never heard the popular pantomime refrain “He’s behind you!”? The absurdity was Mum’s capture of the offending teacher,
red-handed, under the bed (This England, 18 July).

Comedy and tragedy are on the same continuum. We would live in a poor world where Gerald Scarfe could not tackle Gaza.

Godfrey H Holmes
(Contributor of said item)
Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Dark nights

Jacqui Smith is wrong to state that “the lights never go off” in casualty (Diary, 25 July). They still do at Stafford between 10pm and 8am, and the minor injuries unit at Cannock Chase Hospital, also in Mid Staffordshire, is by no means secure.

David Marsden
Via email

Fortune Hunter

As a new subscriber, I am thrilled to see that Hunter Davies is one of your regular contributors. His novel The Rise and Fall of Jake Sullivan, written in 1970, gave me the knowledge to make it rich. Being from a working-class family in northern England, I had no idea how to make it financially up until then. Thanks to Hunter’s novel, I have retired financially well off on a lovely property in far North Queensland.

Ken Cotterill
Mareeba, Australia