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27 March 2019updated 07 Jun 2021 12:37pm

Letter of the week: The Brexit paralysis

By New Statesman

Last week’s excellent edition reminds us of the issues that, paralysed by Brexit, our political class is failing to address: a flawed constitutional settlement crying out for both greater regional and national devolution; an economy built around privatising gains and socialising losses; an unwillingness to accept that the state owes a duty of care
to all of its citizens.

Lyndsey Stonebridge’s piece on Hannah Arendt (The Critics, 22 March) called out with greatest clarity. Her reminder that, for Arendt, to drive a person from one country is to expel them from all countries and so “[expel] them from humanity”, is haunting. The moral case for welcoming refugees or permitting the return of Shamima Begum could not be more different. However, both show a failure to assert the values on which we claim our society to be based: the rule of law; compassion; individual rights; collective responsibility.

Politicians have failed to engage with such issues or help society to find a language with which to do so. If, as Arendt wrote, we humanise the world through speaking of it, then I fear where this failure of leadership is taking us.

Darius Barik


Steps to suffrage

In his article (“The original centrist party”, 8 March) Simon Heffer refers to  “the blot on [the Liberal Party’s] record that HH Asquith, for reasons that today seem incomprehensible, could not support female suffrage…”

In fact, Asquith’s reasons were, at the time, comprehensible. Before the First World War, when Asquith was prime minister, the various proposals and draft legislation presented to him, set a high requirement in property and wealth which a woman should own if she
were to qualify for the vote. Even the male vote then had certain occupational qualifications attached.

Asquith’s concern with those early proposals for female suffrage was based principally on electoral considerations as he concluded that the criteria would disproportionately favour richer women who, he supposed, would be more likely to vote Conservative than Liberal.

One may regret that more enlightened draft legislation was not originally put forward but, politically, that was not widely accepted, and it took the demographic blows of the war before both the male occupational qualifications for suffrage were eliminated and the female wealth conditions were first modified and
later abandoned.

Raymond Asquith
(Earl of Oxford)
Frome, Somerset


Up with feminised

Peter Wilby complains (First Thoughts, 15 March) that he finds the Guardian under my editorship overly “feminised”.

Of course, as the only female editor-in-chief in Britain, I’m used to this kind of analysis. But I wonder what he means by “feminised”? If he means revealing the Windrush scandal, forcing a home secretary to resign, delivering record numbers of loyal digital readers alongside highest-ever print subscriptions, overseeing thriving editions in the US and Australia and an exuberant Observer that exposed the Cambridge Analytica scandal, being nominated for an Oscar, launching a highly successful daily news podcast and getting the Guardian to break even for the first time since the 1990s, then perhaps being “feminised” isn’t so bad? (All that is from the last year, by the way.)

As for stories about “breast implants” that he doesn’t “care to read”: he can only be referring to our revelations about women being poisoned by implants, often after mastectomies, with commercial interests trumping patient safety. That’s a series I was proud to run, alongside practical articles about how to have a healthy body and on sex and relationships that are relevant and useful to our global audience of women and men.

Katharine Viner
Guardian News and Media


Adverse reaction

I’m writing after reading Kim Moore’s poem “I Let a Man” (The NS Poem, 15 March). Given the magazine’s substantial male readership, I’m surprised that you published this poem. Moore’s abilities as a poet are not in question. However, I am disturbed by the ideological stance the poem takes. It is part of a growing liberal backlash against men, seeking to denigrate and reduce them at every turn. Take Moore’s stance to its extreme conclusion – which is being echoed in many ways and through many platforms – and it will result in the annihilation of men, as outlined in Valerie Solanas’s The Scum Manifesto.

Miles Salter
Via email


Sarah Ditum’s article on lost digital content (Digital Dispatches, 15 March) was timely, given it came ahead of reports that MySpace had lost huge numbers of musicians’ tracks.

I still proudly retain the cuttings from my first job as a local newspaper reporter in 1977. The content is nothing special but at least it exists. But nowhere can I “access” the great stuff created by a small team I was part of two decades later that “populated” the pioneering BBC website, The Score/beebSport. Media historians might be taken by the early “attitude” of our sports journalism – if they could only see it. They’ll have to take our word, until our own body servers power down.

Robin Latchem
Enfield, London


Bad faith

In his paragraph about the Christchurch massacre (First Thoughts, 22 March), Peter Wilby castigates those who identified the Rotherham abusers as Muslim and compares this to the identification of Catholic priest abusers, whereas other groups such as taxi drivers and public-school teachers are spared. But he ignores the common denominator between the two groups of religious offenders – namely their relationship to women and the faiths that support their beliefs.

Both hold females to be inferior to males and it is but a short step from this to justifying abuse – in their thinking, at least. The common corruption lies in the concept of faith, any faith; for blind belief permits any activity upheld in their scriptures.

Peter James
, Warwickshire


I found the last sentence of Peter Wilby’s first piece and the last paragraph in the second the most arresting I’ve read in the magazine for some time (First Thoughts, 22 March). Congratulations to him for
his insight.

Richard Cove
Via email


A social ill

While Rachel Kelly is right to say we need to take back control of our own mental health (Out of the Ordinary, 22 March), to only say this is to ignore the structural problems in our society and the jobs that are making us ill in the first place. It is too convenient for our public and private employers to treat our mental health conditions as individual problems to be treated with pills or a course of CBT.

Taking back control of our mental health means pushing back against the environment that is making us ill. It can mean getting politically active: join a tenants’ association to protest your poor housing, unionise for better working conditions, and so on. It is not the whole solution, but not to acknowledge it reinforces the false message that depression is an individual’s problem, when in fact it is our society that has a serious mental health crisis; one that is getting worse.
Steve Tollyfield
Via email


Leading us on

Yanis Varoufakis had me  until his last two words (“The UK needs an economic and constitutional revolution”, 22 March). Until then, his analysis of the UK’s current state of confusion had put flesh on the bones of what I, in an infinitely less informed way, had been thinking.

Someone else has written somewhere that the best leaders seem to embody what most forward-thinking people are feeling and hoping for, and that they have convincing ideas on how to move towards that better state. The ideas expressed in this article, to my mind, are the sorts of things we should be thinking very seriously about.

But, oh dear, Yanis. Your candidate for getting us there is… Jeremy Corbyn. Really?
If you had said that Labour was the party most likely to give rise to such a leader (though it hasn’t yet) I’d probably have been with you. Surely a basic qualification for such a leader is that he or she inspires trust? With Corbyn’s equivocal attitudes in the past to far-left causes and terrorist groups and, of course, to his shadowy absence for most of the past two years regarding Brexit and inaction over anti-Semitism,
I suggest that he is not the one to lead us into better times.

Kevin Tinson

Via email


Expert exposure

It is a pity more airtime is not afforded to intellectuals such as Paul Collier (“State of Emergency”, 22 March), who addresses the need to heal rifts in our society and calls for the reversal of the economic divergence of rich regions from poor ones in order to reduce inequalities – or to the former head of MI5 who warns of Britain being less safe if we leave the EU without a deal. As for sovereignty, the fact that Iraq was a sovereign state didn’t stop the West from invading that country with disastrous consequences; no wonder the Russians are so delighted at the prospect
of our leaving the EU and
its fragmentation, not to mention the break-up of the United Kingdom.

Angela Croft

Via email


Yesterday’s future

I surely cannot be the only one who has been repeatedly reminded of all the issues that Charter 88 campaigned for in terms of constitutional and electoral reform. Imagine how different our current political mess might be if even some of their aims had been achieved.

Dr Peter Simmons

Stonesfield, Oxfordshire


Constant gardener

Andrew Marr (The Diary, 22 March) notes that Jeremy Corbyn’s north London allotment underwrites his relatively laid-back approach to politics as he nurtures vegetables and fruit over their growing cycle. It also suggests, surely, a commitment to
grass-roots politics.

Keith Flett
London N17

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