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13 December 2016updated 07 Jun 2021 8:03am

Letter of the week: Flat earth news

By New Statesman

Nick Pearce has many home truths for politicians (New Times, 9 December), but I do not accept that the actual threat of nationalism represents a failure of liberalism, nor, specifically, that: “A victory for Le Pen would be a cataclysmic defeat for liberalism.”

I understand that Pearce is referring mainly to economic liberalism, but there is a danger of conflating economic with political liberalism when we are seeing the failure of social democracy, as pointed out as early as 1980 by Ralf Dahrendorf in his booklet After Social Democracy.

The frustrating truth for liberals is that “progressive” politicians have failed to confront the nationalist and xenophobic arguments of right-wing populists which have seduced electors, who feel that they have been left behind by so-called progress and are prepared to scapegoat minorities and immigrants.

The anti-selfish case is not easy to make but there is little alternative. The public may vote that the Earth is flat, but it remains round.

Michael Meadowcroft
Liberal MP for Leeds West (1983-87)


Future tense

David Runciman is right (New Times, 9 December) about the silence of the Leave campaign on the future of the British constitution and the recrudescence of executive power under Theresa May.

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Possibly the only tangible benefit of Brexit is that the next generation of Faragists might fulminate about the shortcomings of Westminster once Brussels is gone, and so demand further devolution.

Alan Bullion
Tunbridge Wells, Kent


Speaking out

In the early 1970s, I stood for election in the Trench ward of Tonbridge, Kent, and won 67 per cent of the vote (over 1,100 votes) in a straight fight with the Tory. On 9 December 2016, Labour secured barely 21 per cent in a by-election in Trench, beating Ukip by only 26 votes. The Tory candidate got roughly 60 per cent, or 604 votes, in one of the most deprived wards in the borough of Tonbridge and Malling.

At the start of this year, in a lengthy article in the New Statesman (“The Micawber syndrome”, 8 January), I predicted that the Labour Party could become an irrelevance unless we took swift action to rid ourselves of the party’s pet albatross, Jeremy Corbyn.

These two facts, separated by a generation, are related. Even a year ago a new leader would have had a monumental task to win an election in 2020. Now, it seems impossible. The cowardice and ineptitude of the Parliamentary Labour Party has led us down the path opened up by Corbyn’s victory and into an even darker future.

The NS may not have gone soft on Corbyn, but it has gone quiet. I know many of your readers, even possibly some of your staff, may believe he is not all that bad, but he is and you should be shouting it from every platform.

Joe Haines
Tunbridge Wells, Kent


Little England

Brendan Simms’s article on the reality of Donald Trump was a joy until the last sentence, where he blew it for this reader by revealing his Little Englander instincts. “Only England stands for collective defence, free trade and fair play,” he wrote. That’s the rest of the UK put in its place.

Doug Haggart


Readers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would be interested to read Brendan Simms’s reference to Dorothy Sayers’s poem “The English War” and its claim that “only England stands”. If the desire is for a united front, it would perhaps be wise to recognise the contributions made by all, especially those in a country to the north of England who, in the recent referendum, voted by a greater majority to stay in the EU than the UK.

Sheila Scott


Editor’s note: Readers might be interested to know, if they are not already aware, that Professor Simms is Irish.


Private matters

Kevin Maguire (Commons Confidential, 9 December) makes an often-repeated point about the over-representation of the privately educated in the Commons. He and his fellow journalists can and do make the same point about every other highly paid and influential branch of our society. The implication of this is that these schools should be abolished in order to remove this unwarranted privilege. Does Maguire imagine that if this were achieved, the children of the wealthy and influential would stop occupying these positions?

John Young
Usk, Monmouthshire


First things first

I read with interest several columns about the fortunes of the Labour Party. From George Eaton (Politics, 9 December), I learned that there could be legitimate splits in which local constituencies make up their own rules and way forward.

Judith A Daniels
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk


Human kindness

I happened to hear Jason Cowley’s take on “what makes us human” on BBC Radio 2 and I enjoyed it so much that I bought my first ever New Statesman (not easy to find in Bury St Edmunds). The next day, I took out a subscription – and I have 30 more pages to enjoy. Where have you been since my arrival in the UK 27 years ago?

Søren Upton Sjølin
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk


Big cheese

I note that Nicholas Lezard, despite complaining about a lack of companionship, is still shunning his resident mouse (Down and Out, 9 December). It’s Christmas – he should befriend it and give it some cheese as a gesture of goodwill.

Keith Flett
London N17


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