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28 November 2019updated 08 Jun 2021 11:28am

Letter of the Week: Corbyn’s murky history

By New Statesman

Contrary to what John Newsinger (Correspondence, 13 December) and others would have us believe, there was no smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, and allegations of anti-Semitism did not arise because of his support for the Palestinians.

Terry Philpot
Limpsfield Chart, Surrey

 

Election aftermath

Now that the body of Remain has finally been found, along with the surprising and shocking discovery of a second old socialist body, we can get on with the process of grieving and thinking about the future. Many of the wider currents influencing how we got here have been articulated in the New Statesman. It would be a mistake to waste energy in the coming months on a “whodunnit” investigation. So I have a request for a theme which might articulate “fallback” lines of defence, if not a clear pathway forward.

Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings may be leaders able to set local agendas, but nonetheless they are products of our time – variations on characters who fill vacancies created by societal shifts. Similarly, a Thatcher variant was inevitable in the context of the UK in the 1970s.

Rather than wait through ten damaging years, may I call on the NS to form a new commission from its writers that goes beyond last week’s moving “What we want” package (6 December), and articulates a risk assessment – if not a strategy – for the 2020s, so we can measure the readiness of key fallback positions before the consequences of this general election take hold.

The NS is a powerful forensic instrument and its role in setting an investigative agenda has never been needed more.

Graham Johnston
Via email

 

I first voted in 1970 in a Tory safe seat. The local Liberals told me that they were best placed to defeat the Tories: naively I believed them, and so I voted Liberal. They came third. After the election, I found they had always come third.

I lost trust in them and went on to become a Labour activist. Over the years I stood in local elections and was chairman in three constituencies, school governor, and national and regional conference delegate. Under New Labour I found so many policies indefensible that I left. It took me some time to readjust.

My fellow supporters in the ex-industrial Labour constituencies remained loyal a little longer. It seems that they too got to breaking point, but for them the catalyst was Brexit.

Terry Pitt
Bath

 

The only hope for the centre left in our adversarial two-party system is the abolition of the Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat parties and the creation of a new combined Democratic Labour party. In many seats, including my own, if the minority party vote had gone to Labour the result would have been different. There has to be only one alternative to the Conservatives, at least in England.

Ben Whitney
Wolverhampton

 

Where do we go from here? A brief visit to the past might help. In 1954 a New Statesman piece about Clement Attlee and the 1945-51 Labour government stated that his government had “contributed almost nothing new or imaginative to the pool of ideas with which men seek to illuminate human nature and its environment”. Amazing though it may appear, some contemporary Labour figures were lambasting Attlee’s postwar government for not being socialist enough.

This has been the narrative of Momentum in relation to the Labour governments between 1997 and 2010. During this period Labour helped Britain develop as a modern pluralist democracy: devolution for Scotland and Wales, executive mayors for cities, House of Lords reform, freedom of information and the Human Rights Act.

For working people, Labour delivered progressive rights: a minimum wage, four weeks of paid holiday and better maternity and paternity rights. For communities and families torn apart by crime, racial intolerance and drugs, Labour established programmes of inner-city regeneration, Excellence in Cities and Sure Start, and invested in youth facilities. Corbyn succeeded in confining these achievements to history. Thanks to him, we now have a right-wing Tory government that wants to dismantle most of Labour’s achievements.

Mike Ion
Shrewsbury, Shropshire

 

The election ends a decade of lost opportunities for the Labour Party. The Tory majority of 80 makes it almost inevitable that they will be in power throughout the 2020s. The wearily familiar post-election Labour soul-searching must result in a hard-headed and honest analysis of what went wrong (early comments blaming the media and Corbyn-sceptics are not encouraging).

While I acknowledge the positives since 2015, such as a motivated membership and a boldness to take on the political and economic status quo, the Labour Party has suffered a catastrophic loss of credibility. To re-establish its right to be heard, more emphasis needs to be given to grass-roots relationship-building, helping people with their everyday concerns and problems.

Anand Shukla
Wimbledon

 

Statesmanship

I was saddened to read Jason Cowley’s unnecessarily brittle response to those many of his readers who, despite their reservations, were loyal to Jeremy Corbyn and to Labour on 12 December. (Editor’s Note, 13 December). Clearly the magazine must stand independent of any party but I have always counted on it to at least inhabit the same moral universe as its left-leaning readers. Its decision to oppose Corbyn and his colleagues will be judged as a minor but nevertheless dismaying contribution to the Tory victory and to all the horrors that could follow. Will I continue to read the New Statesman? Yes. Under Cowley’s editorship it has remained the best political and cultural weekly by far. Will I trust its common sense and loyalty in the future? Not a chance.

Jim Crace
Via email

 

I was spellbound by Jason Cowley’s Editor’s Note in which he wrote about the history and aims of the New Statesman. After swallowing the pill of the election result, it was reassuring for me to know that our country is still packed with intelligent and well-balanced thinkers and authors.

I was introduced to the excellent weekly the Listener in the 1950s and was devastated when it ceased to exist. I discovered an even better read in the NS five years ago and have been glued to it ever since. As I am a politically ignorant ex-scientist, it has brought an important and enjoyable new dimension into the ninth decade of my life. I will be diving into its roots in the new book, Statesmanship, which Mr Cowley mentioned.

Alan Peacegood
Hughenden Valley, Bucks

 

Prompted by his appearance on the cover of the smart new volume Statesmanship, I would like to nominate JB Priestley as a philosophical model for Labour’s rejuvenation. In his book English Journey, Priestley sketches a country of deep inequality that can be ameliorated by democratic socialism. This vision is now generally associated with George Orwell, but Priestley helped to ferment this cross-class communitarian vision.

If, as Jason Cowley argued elsewhere on 15 December, Corbyn lacked a reading of “the social atmosphere” of this country, the ease with which Priestley coupled these goals may give the Labour Party’s next generation inspiration.

Nicholas Harris
Via email

 

Whozat?

Lovely tribute to Bob Willis by Michael Henderson (Appreciation, 13 December).It reminded me of a story that Bob himself used to tell. When at the height of his fast bowling prowess in the early 1980s, he played more for England than his county. On a rare occasion playing for Warwickshire at Edgbaston, while marking out his run-up, one Brummie joker shouted “bowler’s name?!”

Mark Brooks
Welshpool, Powys

 

Rail travails

Jeremy Cliffe’s article about travelling around Europe by train (“One-track mind”, 13 December) reminded me of my first venture abroad in 1954. The journey took more than 30 hours, starting from Falmouth and ending up in the Harz Mountains in northern Germany.

We rocked into Paddington on the night train and travelled on to Harwich, where we boarded a steamer and hunkered down on damp crates, retching at the stink of fish, until we reached the Hook. We caught another train and rattled through Holland, changed at Hanover and kept on rolling. We awoke in Goslar to a fairytale palace, timbered houses and medieval streets. Then we took a coach to Altenau, where we alighted with our baggage and climbed up through a clearing to a camp in the forest. My friend and I shared a tent with three German girls who invited us down to the river, where kale soup was being ladled out of a huge cauldron.

By contrast, my 16-year-old nephew has just come back from a fly-by-night three-day excursion to Munich.

Angela Croft
Via email

 

Beautiful people

I was struck by the self-portrait of the young Rembrandt (The Critics, 13 December) and his resemblance to our very own Ed Sheeran. The physiognomy of genius perhaps?

Danny Bootle
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

 

Mystery pants

I loved the pink knickers on the cover of the Christmas special. Where can I get a pair?

Emily Aubury
Templecombe, Somerset

 

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