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11 December 2019updated 08 Jun 2021 9:43am

Letter of the Week: March of the me generation

By New Statesman

Your excellent Leader (“Britain Deserves Better”, 6 December) concludes with a call for an alternative settlement that cultivates civic patriotism for the common good.

But the qualities you list – such as reciprocity, humility and social responsibility – have been steamrollered by the relentless march of a very particular brand of social liberalism, which emphasises the pursuit of personal fulfilment as the primary moral imperative.

Paul Abberley

Via email


What we have

It is extraordinary that not one of the contributors to your “What we want” package (6 December), all in search of some kind of British exceptionalism, makes any mention of Britain’s largest and most obvious exceptional position. Namely, it is a member – by luck rather than merit or foresight, admittedly – of the enormous Commonwealth network, the powerful connectivity of which meshes together nations, societies, communities and interests.

This has got little to do with the past and everything to do with the communications revolution that links common interests (profession, education, science, research, sport, creative industry, business, legal structures, human rights) across the worldwide system as never before in history.

Britain is, of course, no longer at the centre of this network, so we can forget the old hub-and-spoke Anglo-centrist Commonwealth vision of the past. Instead, we are fortunate enough to find ourselves embedded in international connections of a modern kind, which, despite being played down for half a century by London, provide a wealth of opportunity. We can both transmit our soft power in new world conditions to the common good, and, more selfishly, gain better access to the areas where the overwhelming part of growth is going to occur over the next two decades: where we have to succeed to survive.

David Howell 
House of Lords, SW1


Follow the leader

In your Leader (“Britain deserves better”, 6 December) you conclude that Jeremy Corbyn is  “unfit to be prime minister”, largely due to anti-Semitism, with a side order of Brexit. You “resolve to endorse no party at this general election”, when the alternative is another five years of Tory government led by Boris Johnson.

Of course anti-Semitism is an evil that the Labour Party should have stopped years ago, and it has been handled terribly badly. There are anti-Semitic people within the Labour Party who have behaved appallingly. That should all have been stopped as soon as it happened and people expelled from the party. And of course Jeremy Corbyn is not a good leader – few doubt that any more.

On the other hand, he has given the impetus to a Labour Party that could be genuinely transformative and improve people’s lives. The alternative is millions of people having their lives ruined, or continuing to be made miserable, by a Johnson-led Tory government.

Diane Ordish


As someone who has become increasingly frightened by the bullying tactics employed by some Labour MPs and activists, I applaud your courage in refusing to endorse Labour in the 2019 general election, and your generosity in citing fine individual MPs from all parties.

However, I wonder if you are too dismissive of the Liberal Democrats. True, Jo Swinson’s campaign got off to a poor start, and her lack of experience has led her to make tactical errors. But the party’s manifesto is the only one considered workable by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and is cited by the Resolution Foundation as the one that will best help the poor (ironically, it offers the closest thing to the Scandinavian-style social democracy that Corbyn’s followers claim he represents).

Kate Hopkins
Via email


Your excellent analysis of the choices facing the British electorate on 12 December was undermined by your examples of “fine parliamentarians from all parties… whose fortitude and resilience are admirable” not including a single Conservative MP. Are you really suggesting that the Tory party has no MPs with those qualities?

Anna Lee
Great Budworth, Cheshire


I have just read your pre-election issue Leader and cannot fault it. If Labour loses this election, I can only hope that its new leader will take his or her party along the road you recommend. I am sure that many of those who have traditionally voted for other parties, and many of the young generation, will follow that leader and support a party that is good for the future and not beholden to the historical prejudices that disfigure the parties of today.

Charles Nettlefold
Pewsey, Wiltshire


Until now I have respected and valued the New Statesman, even when I disagreed with it. But the decision to take up more than a page with Anthony Julius’s diatribe against Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, in the form of an open letter, left me feeling betrayed (Correspondence, 6 December). There are many Jewish voices that have not been heard in this toxic debate and who have tried to give detailed refutations of much of what he wrote.

The letter, and much of the Leader, seemed oblivious to the insults they offered to the vast majority of Labour Party members who have no truck with anti-Semitism and are well able to call it out when they see it.

Clare Palmer
Via email


Despite being given a whole page for his open letter, nowhere does Anthony Julius mention the real reason for his rehearsal of the Great Corbyn Anti-Semitism Scam: Corbyn’s support for the Palestinians. To acknowledge this would expose it as a smear.

When historians look back on this episode, what they will be investigating is not the takeover of the Labour Party by anti-Semites, but the incredible success of the media in smearing the Labour Party’s most anti-racist leader ever.

I must confess my dismay at the historian Richard Evans falling for this, not least because the Labour programme he supports would not be there were it not for Corbyn.

John Newsinger


Hollow centre

Helen Thompson’s analysis of the demise of the centre of British politics (These Times, 6 December) is too narrow. The traditional centre-right and centre-left parties have collapsed across France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere. In Germany, their hegemony is shredded. In the US, like our Labour Party, both the Republican and Democratic parties have been subverted by populist factions. There are clearly wider trends at hand. As much as I despair of our politicians, it’s hard to imagine that different tactical decisions could have held at bay the root causes that the column neglects.

Ted Morris
London E14


We need Attlees

The “but” in the standfirst to Colin Kidd’s review of Leo McKinstry’s book (The Critics, 6 December), which comes after Churchill’s much-quoted remark about Clement Attlee’s modesty, suggests you misunderstand Churchill’s meaning. Far from mocking Attlee, as the “but” would imply, Churchill was praising him. Attlee served with great distinction in the Great War and then throughout his life in peacetime as a politician and in his voluntary work. We could today do with many more Attlees and at least one Churchill, rather than the karaoke singer version currently leading the Conservative Party.

Stephen Powers
London SE16


Right to Remain

The Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson’s continued rejection of a second referendum on Scottish independence while being very much in favour of a second referendum on Brexit shows she is neither liberal nor a democrat (“Lost in Remainia”, 6 December). It’s conveniently selective to promote a referendum you think you can win, while opposing one that you fear you cannot. But even in this Swinson shows how out of touch she is with her electorate.

John Hein
Via email


I would like to dispute the claim made in your Leader (6 December) that the Lib Dems’ pledge to revoke Article 50 is “illiberal and undemocratic”. As set out by the EU Referendum Act 2015, and reaffirmed by the Supreme Court on 24 January 2017, no government was under any obligation – indeed, no government had the right – to withdraw the UK from the EU based solely on the result of the 2016 referendum.

Politicians and civil servants have spent three years attempting to negotiate an agreement by which we could leave the EU without inflicting serious economic damage on the country. Having failed to do this, it is the duty of MPs to represent our interest.

The mistake of Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems has been the failure to make this argument. Direct democracy is not a liberal triumph: it is a tool used by governments to legitimise behaviour they know is detrimental to those who voted for it. It is an abdication of responsibility.

Adam Benjamin
Via email


For members of a certain cultural class, Remain is an article of identity that overrides democratic decision. What is at the core of their belief? Affection for Europe and our fellow Europeans? Hardly: these sentiments are shared by many who fully support Brexit. An assumption that Brexit threatens to return Europe to the days of bombs raining down on innocent people?

For centuries war and peace in Europe has rested upon the relations of France, Germany and Russia. In modern times our protection against conflict initiated by Russia has been Nato and not the EU. Arguably, the European project has served to prevent any flare-up of Franco-German rivalry. But the Common Market was doing that for 15 years before the UK joined. When de Gaulle said “Non” to British entry, was there any reason to fear this would precipitate a German grab for Alsace-Lorraine?

Britain does not need to be in bed with France and Germany to ensure that their marriage is going well. In fact, the opposite may be true.

John Riseley
Via email

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