David Edgerton’s article (“How Britain was sold”, 15 November) gave much food for thought, but one argument jarred with me.
Though he writes that the Brexit vote was “driven by politics not economics”, and that much of the Leave vote came from those who are English, retired, Conservative-voting and outside major cities, he concludes: “It was, perhaps, a vote against the modern, foreign-directed form of capitalism, and for areturn to the conservative national capitalism of the postwar period.”
I find it hard to believe that many of the Conservative, English retirees from the countryside would have voted Leave because of dissatisfaction with the form of capitalism that governs our economy. It seems more likely that the majority were fuelled by the racist and xenophobic fear-mongering employed by the Leave campaign. Isn’t that why “ending the free movement of people once and for all” was so important to Theresa May? Why avoid the obvious reasons in favour of the complex?
I work as an NHS manager and have so far been thoroughly unimpressed by the tone of the debate in this election. The idea of splashing the cash on the health service is banal and faintly embarrassing. In a previous life I was an army officer, and any officer who, when faced with a challenge, simply threw troops at the problem was regarded poorly.
So too with health: money may be a problem in some areas but with a projected £135bn per annum for the NHS – about four times our defence budget – it shouldn’t be impossible to make ends meet. The problems are complicated but it is around them that the political discourse should turn: local provision versus centralisation; the balance between inpatient, outpatient and community care; the extent of local authority care; the role of the private sector; sustaining the workforce; and the role of “disrupter” techniques and technology. Brexit may be the big issue in this election but the health of arguably our greatest social institution deserves more than a bidding war between political auctioneers.
Every day I witness compassionate care for the sick and vulnerable delivered by talented and hard-pressed staff. The tenor of the political discourse does not do their hard work justice.
In his perceptive column about Labour’s candidate selection procedures, Stephen Bush (Politics, 15 November) fails to note that Ibrahim Dogus, parachuted in to replace Tom Watson in West Bromwich East, was one of those shortlisted for the Vauxhall candidacy won by the Corbynsceptic Florence Eshalomi. Dogus’s address to the selection meeting was passionate but rather shouty, and he made the possibly fatal misjudgement of disclosing that he and Corbyn were friends. By contrast, Eshalomi was pitch perfect. Her first campaign leaflet stresses her Remain credentials and does not mention Corbyn at all.
But the result confronts me – and the many other party members who believe Labour cannot win an election under the present leadership – with a dilemma. Should I vote for Eshalomi, on the grounds that she will strengthen the opposition to Corbyn within the parliamentary party? Or would a vote for the Liberal Democrats be a faster route
to defenestrating the leader
and his clique?
The wrong Tories
Peter Oborne asks “Can Burkean Tories support Johnson’s Tories come election day?” (Diary, 15 November). The answer is a resounding “no”. I write as a previously loyal Tory, happily sitting in the centre right of British politics, who simply cannot stomach the “Brextremism” now being offered. Anyone who prefers truth to post-truth politics should find themselves unable to support this rancid government. Leaving aside the disgrace of its bungled attempt to muffle parliament through prorogation, the best measure of its extremism is its intolerance for the politest and most constructive rebels in political history: the 21 Tories who ensured the passage of the Benn Act.
Corbyn pros & cons
I was surprised by David Clarke’s comment that Jeremy Corbyn’s party would “draw us closer to the goal of a real democracy that would yield equality” (Correspondence, 15 November). I’ve neither seen nor heard anything about how the party operates under Corbyn that would justify
As a footnote to your Correspondence page, you state: “We reserve the right to edit letters”. If only you had used that right to cut down Joe Haines (8 November). The Labour policies mentioned in Mr Haines’s recent letter are fine by me. Housing, the environment, pollution, NHS, tax and benefits are all areas that need urgent attention. Just because all the policy details are not there yet it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t get behind Labour’s campaign.
I am sorry Michael Moore says I was churlish in thinking Labour’s 40 per cent of the poll in the last general election was not significant. It was. It is often overlooked that there is a strong, almost irreducible, Labour core in this country and a strong anti-Tory core, too. But combined they are not enough to defeat the Tories. They got something like 42 per cent in 2017. There is a significant floating vote as well, and it has to be won. That is where the leaders of the Labour Party come in. Tony Blair captured it and Jeremy Corbyn cannot. That is not an opinion, it is a proven fact.
I’m glad to see in the same edition of the NS that Keith Flett is thinking of rejoining Labour now that I have left it. That’s an own goal if ever I saw one and by my reckoning makes the score 2-0 to me.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Many years ago when I was a student, I looked forward every Friday to the New Statesman to inform and enlighten me. Over the years, and moving away from the UK, my reading became more variable and eventually dropped away. It did not help that the NS magazines in Australian newsagents were two months old.
But I picked up your 30 August issue, invited by the cover “The long shadow of Hitler”. Reading that article, your analysis of Brexit, the columnists and brilliant book reviews led me to take out a subscription the next day. I look forward to being as informed and enlightened by the NS as I was in the 1960s, and to having a viewpoint to balance against the illiberalism of current Australian politics, from both the left and right.
University of South Australia
Flight of fancy
I was interested to read Megan Nolan’s column on balancing the benefits of international air travel against its environmental impact (Out of the Ordinary, 15 November). However, she misses a difficult issue. Many people want to keep in touch with close family who live in another country. I know people who have taken several short trips a year to Europe and Asia to see elderly parents in poor health. This can hardly be described as selfish behaviour. This is an uncomfortable debate with no easy answers.
It’s disingenuous for Megan Nolan to suggest that the working poor are obliged to fly to foreign countries to escape their miserable, slave-wage lives, when in fact the truly poor don’t go anywhere at all. It’s the relatively wealthy who do the most flying, and therefore the most environmental damage.
Flying is a luxury, not a right, and it’s perfectly possible to have a very nice life without clocking up air miles.
Richmond, North Yorkshire
Any hopes I might have been nursing that the twilight of my life is some way off were knocked into touch by James Marriott’s revelation that the 9/11 attacks in 2001 are his first memory of a major historical event (Observations, 15 November). That aside, his points find resonance in the writings of the ancient Stoics. They understood that one of the greatest malaises of the human condition is the capitalist notion of persuading people to feel dissatisfied, and to believe that having more will bring happiness and fulfilment. In reality the euphoria is swiftly replaced by renewed dissatisfaction.
Brexit and Trumpism are new variants on encouraging dissatisfaction while promoting the belief that happiness and prosperity lie just around the corner. The Stoic finds solace in the duty to make other people’s lives better, to live a good life, to accept that change is always present, that everything is ephemeral, and to cherish and celebrate what we have.
Guy de la Bédoyère
Thief in the night
As a retired Londoner who normally regards seven hours’ sleep as something of a luxury, I recently spent six nights in a hotel in Goa in India. My room was very quiet and had very dark, thick curtains. I slept ten and a quarter hours the first night and over nine hours on all the other nights. As Dan Hancox suggests in his article (“Why we are all losing sleep”, 8 November), modern life in the metropolis is stealing from us a valuable commodity.
Much as I have come to admire Peter Wilby, I must take issue with his somewhat sweeping contention that all New Zealanders are obsessed with rugby (First Thoughts, 1 November). I’m not, and I know several others who aren’t either. It’s a bit like someone from the other side of the globe alleging all British people are obsessed with Brexit.
Palmerston North, New Zealand
Now that you seem to have moved Peter Wilby’s column, his “Thoughts” are no longer “First”. I suggest you rename his contribution “Thoughts 27 per cent of the Way In”.
We reserve the right to edit letters.