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19 June 2024

Letter of the week: Immigration checkpoints

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By New Statesman

Hans Kundnani informs us, from New York University, that opposition to mass immigration from the third world is “hard right” (World View, 14 June). There is no hope for the left until we stop labelling the majority with traditional views, who simply do not wish the make-up of their country and neighbourhoods to be transformed according to the hyper-liberal orthodoxy, as extremists.

Labour governments until only a few years ago would have regarded holding immigration below 100,000 per annum as uncontroversial. Were they “hard right” also? While I am working for a Labour victory in what would normally be a safe Conservative seat, and enjoying the triumphalism, I predict that by 2026-27 Keir Starmer’s government will be desperately unpopular with voters because it has failed to control immigration by refusing to divorce itself from woke attitudes.
Christopher Clayton, Waverton, Chester

Green shoots of opposition

Andrew Marr’s article (Politics, 14 June) was itself historic: it mentioned the Green Party! It would be good to see an analysis in the New Statesman of the Green Party’s positioning to the left of Labour and its increasing support among a range of demographics. Watching the seven leaders debate, it became clear that there is a potential left opposition consisting of the Greens and nationalist parties, with various aspects of policy in common – not least on immigration and a wealth tax.
Martin Francis, Wembley, Greater London

Unpoliced academies

Professor Helen Gunter is right to deplore the lack of political engagement in the research on the academisation of our schools (Correspondence, 14 June). Equally frustrating is the absence of media scrutiny of this major structural change in education, bar one or two exceptions (notably the writer Warwick Mansell). Where is the challenge, the critique, the counter-evidence to this ideological shift, which leaves a democratic deficit in the governance and accountability of our state schooling? As Gunter says, there are plenty of researchers with ideas and evidence on this, but with media apathy there is little opportunity for the public to be informed.
Dr Helen Ryan-Atkin, Penzance

Enter, stage left

At least twice this year I have contemplated resigning my Labour membership over the leadership’s turn to the right. However, your list of Labour’s next generation (Election 2024, 14 June) gives me some hope for change. May I be proved right.
Sue Lloyd, Bristol

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Ideas, ideals and idylls

Howard Jacobson (Cultural Capital, 14 June) meanders down the well-trodden path of argument that artists should remain supine to the funding models of literary festivals. The charge is that certain reprobates are seeking to “police” art. That these curmudgeons are “juvenile” in their activism is an oft-repeated line that seeks to confine the artist within the bucolic idyll that Jacobson so prefers. This insistence that these boycotts are the stuff of playgrounds contains two ongoing, intertwined conversations not addressed.

First, current funding models exist in part because of a lack of public resources directed towards cultural institutions. As such they are ever more reliant upon advertising neoliberal monoliths. Second, and most importantly, concerning the role that artists should play in society: Jacobson fails to recognise the hypocrisy of proclaiming that art should not be activist in its intention – in doing so, policing the nature of art.

If public bodies – and, perhaps, columnists – were more readily willing to recognise the important civic role that arts festivals play, we might be able to maintain events that discuss serious political ideas, and have an afternoon in the summer splendour of self-contradiction (if that’s what you believe art’s role to be).
Alex Norton, Birmingham

Browned off

That Tony Blair appears at 12 on your Left Power List (Cover Story, 7 June) and Gordon Brown is nowhere to be seen tells us everything we need to know about our direction of travel. One has spent his time hawking his wretched institute to the rich and deplorable, while the other has spent his time trying to make life just that bit better for those struggling to get by.
Steve Tollyfield, Alfreton, Derbyshire

The school tax exodus

One perhaps unexpected consequence of Labour’s plans to place VAT on school fees is that it will make private schools even more exclusive. A 20 per cent hike in fees will mean substantial numbers of parents will be obliged to join the state sector. It would be far more sensible to encourage fiscally sharing the resources of such schools with the more disadvantaged, and to encourage the creation of more subsidised places. This might offend instinctive principles of egalitarianism, but it would work better in the long run and would encourage greater integration than the usual bull-headed “ban it” approach.
James Birkin, London SW4

Tools vs fools

I agree with Jennifer Jasmine White that there is a meritocratic myth contained in Keir Starmer’s biography (Comment, 13 June, newstatesman.com). However, I think she misses that the purpose of Starmer reiterating his story is to demonstrate that he has walked in the shoes of ordinary working people and understands the precariousness they experience. By doing so he hopes to distinguish himself from the privately educated elites far removed from the lives of the majority of people they wish to govern. Perhaps the application of VAT and business rates to private schools will be the start of rescuing the UK from the over-promoted Cameron, Johnson and their ilk.
Nigel Evans, Swansea

A constructive comment

After all the violent tectonic imagery of landslides, fractures, fissures and earthquakes it was soothing to read of James Shapiro’s (The NS Q&A, 7 June) faith in the restorative powers of dry-stone wall building. Renewing walls from the rubble of the old.
Austen Lynch, Garstang, Lancashire

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This article appears in the 19 Jun 2024 issue of the New Statesman, How to Fix a Nation