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Trigger issues help explain the pull of this government

Reader letters: Trigger issues were critical in the 2016 EU referendum and US presidential votes.

Union flag bunting on the front of No 10 Downing Street

Credit: PA Images

Interesting though Alastair Campbell’s article (“Has something shifted in sado-populist Britain?” TNE #253) and its source (TNE #252) were, there was a factor missing from the box of tactics used both by Trump and in the Brexit campaign: the use of trigger issues that will garner intense support from voters with existing extreme, ingrained or illiberal views.

Where there is a finely-balanced electoral landscape, the support of multiple small groups becomes critical to the swing, hence (for example) Trump’s vociferous espousal of guns, anti-abortionism, climate-change denial, coal-mining etc was targeted at voters who could then be guaranteed to focus on one issue to the exclusion of all else – including policies that would actually be to their disadvantage.

What is bizarre is that, even when the negative consequences of these other policies become evident, that target audience remains loyal, or becomes even more enthusiastic, following some sort of electoral “sunk cost fallacy”.
Tony Fisk, Over Wallop, Hampshire

Alastair Campbell’s two pieces on sado-populism (TNE #252 and #253) point the way to the onslaught that is about to be inflicted on us through forthcoming legislation. It was already obvious that the absurd “levelling up” slogan bears no relation to extremes of wealth and poverty, but it is now clear that we are to be exposed to laws that will generate widespread frustration, if not anger across society.
Roger Iredale, West Coker, Yeovil

Alastair Campbell’s article reveals the inherent inability of Boris Johnson to be an effective prime minister. In the words of Oliver Cromwell, “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing.
Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
David Hogg, Bristol

I can accept many surprising things about Alastair Campbell. He’s doing an outstanding job of articulating a Remainer point of view and shredding Johnson’s government’s lies.
But that he was born in Keighley and is therefore qualified by birth to play for Yorkshire County Cricket Club really stretches credulity to breaking point.
David Marshland

Games of two halves
As I watched the highlights of the Olympics Opening Ceremony, I reflected on the dignified way in which the Japanese are seeing through a commitment, despite the opposition of many of their people. Only time will tell if this is the right decision or not. I was also reminded of how proud I was of the UK at the time of the London 2012 Olympics. How things change – the sporting image of the UK going around the world a few weeks ago was one of a country booing its own national team, thugs storming an iconic stadium and a “fan” with a flare up his bottom. I always thought that in any organisation the standards are set from the top, I don’t think countries are any different. “Remainers” are often accused of not being patriotic and of “talking the country down” – I think it is now clear that the true patriots are not those who are complicit with this government, but those who call it out for the omnishambles that it is and challenge our would-be leaders to set a higher standard.
Nick Roberts, Selly Oak

Caught short
A quick and not very scientific analysis of the shelves in our local supermarket reveals that the great majority of missing products aren’t getting here from France, Italy and other EU countries.
Clearly, this has nothing to do with Brexit and is all the fault of that wretched App which keeps on pinging people. And that wonderful, “Get Brexit Done” NI Protocol is now a pain in the backside because, most unreasonably, the EU is expecting Johnson to stick to what he signed up to.
Bloody foreigners! They won’t even turn up to pick our fruit and veg and can’t be arsed to drive their wagons over here.
Anne Green

Cold War memories
As a National Service Sergeant, aged 23, I was sent to West Berlin a couple of days or so after the Berlin Wall went up (“Eyewitness to history”, TNE #253). My task: to support PR officers assisting British journalists (see picture).
With journalists, I made a return trip on a small armed convoy to and from a farmhouse in a West Berlin enclave. The journey, along a narrow road lined by armed East German soldiers, was to take the farmer’s young son in and out of West Berlin to continue his education.
Afterwards, I continued from my base at HQ Second Division in Westphalia, travelling through West Germany to send to the British media stories about British soldiers doing interesting things like helping in the Mosel vineyards and taking part in the British and Army Ski Championships.
I have an old ironic postcard (also pictured) with a photo of East German soldiers building the Wall and a quote from the East German leader Walter Ulbricht on June 15, 1961 at a press conference saying: “Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten!” (“No-one has the intention to build a wall!”) Michael Jamieson Newcastle upon Tyne

Too liberal too late
James Ball’s article (“So what IS the liberal response to the migrant crisis?” TNE #253) focused on the end of the migration issue. Once people are making their way it is too late. It is the cause of mass migration that needs to be looked at.
Global inequality is a significant engine in causing unrest and displacement. The notion that there should be rich countries and poor ones needs to be challenged. A more equal world would lead to less need to migrate en masse.
These are not easy problems to address but incremental changes can and will make a huge difference; debt; healthcare; education; market support etc. Raising the standards of living for all is where liberal thinking should be.
Phil Jackman

As well as all the immediate impact of the UK’s cut in overseas aid, the bigger picture seems to have been forgotten, or ignored: Rich countries helping the poor countries to develop a stronger economic, social and environment base helps the whole world. You can’t in all seriousness say in one breath how we must tackle climate change; how we must reduce numbers of economic migrants; how we must stop wars and conflicts that displace refugees, etc. etc. while at the same cutting off funding that can help countries reduce their environmental impacts, strengthen their economies and stabilise their politics.
Adrian Ward Le Bez, France

Generation gain
I’m always impressed by Ian Dunt’s writing and I particularly thank him for introducing the concept of a ‘privilege calculus’ into more general parlance (“Don’t judge too harshly”, TNE #253). This helps me pin down a number of my loose impressions of what is going on in our society.
I was less convinced by Ian’s suggestion that his baby boomer/pensioner ‘class’ is both responsible for, and unconcerned about, the plight of ‘young people’. If I may make a loose generalisation of my own, I believe that older people are, where they can, doing a huge amount to help their younger families get on in life, financially and otherwise.
Nigel Britton

The escape committee
To Owen, my fellow Welsh/European (Letters, TNE #253) I would advise that he looks to various European countries offering residency as a result of investment – in my case, property. Spain and Portugal are examples but I have decided on Greece.
The Greece Golden Visa Program is a residence-by-investment program launched in 2013 that enables non-EU nationals and their family members to obtain permanent residence permits in Greece. The residence permits may be renewed every five years.
To qualify, an investment in real estate property with a minimum value of 250,000 euros, plus the applicable taxes is required and residency permits are usually given within one to two months. This will allow you the right to travel and work freely across the Schengen area – a basic right for everyone in the UK which was stripped from us in 2016.
I have no existing links with Greece at all, it is a beautiful country with wonderful friendly people and an easygoing approach to life – something which I yearn for in my hopefully long, long twilight years.
Alun Jones, Powys

Pugin the boot in
I read Sheila Holliday’s letter, on the phrase “when I hear the word ‘culture’ I reach for my gun”, with interest (TNE #253).
Many years ago I had a university tutor teaching the Gothic revival who remarked, “Whenever I hear the word ‘Pugin’ I reach for my Biretta”.
I was also reminded of the Raymond Chandler character who says: “That’s Browning the poet, not the automatic. I feel sure that you would prefer the automatic.”
Martin Cassels, Edinburgh

LBJ’s lessons
Sebastian Monblat’s excellent letter (TNE #251) echoed sentiments expressed by Lyndon Baines Johnson about the way racism was – and still is (by the Republicans) – utilised to win votes in the US: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket.
“Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
Will Goble, Rayleigh

Takked on
I always open every issue of TNE at Peter Trudgill’s excellent column. I thought he missed an opportunity to highlight that the Danes do not use a single word for “please” (“When saying thanks is a thankless task”, TNE #252).
People in Denmark have a hundred ways of conveying the meaning of “please”, usually along the lines of “would you be so kind as to…” In contrast, the Danes cannot stop themselves saying “tak” (thank you) all the time.
Jonathan Lund Hill Fairford, Gloucestershire
PS: My second given name is “Lund” after my godfather Frank Lund, who was a pilot in the Danish Air Force.

Short Cummings
Three things struck me about Dominic Cummings’ interview with Laura Kuenssberg.
In terms of Brexit, he was knowingly left wanting with the truth regarding the messaging on the bus and the propaganda about Turkey and their imminent membership of the EU.
Secondly, his arrogance in his belief that he was right and anyone who didn’t agree with him was useless. Finally, Boris Johnson continues to be the man without a plan, has seriously poor judgment in allowing Cummings to be an advisor and is possibly the worst PM in living memory.
Tony Howarth, London

Still raging
I refer again to Alastair Campbell’s now-legendary article, “Where is the rage?” (TNE, #246). With reference to Brexit, I believe many are frightened to express their true feelings.
A local shopkeeper was recently delighted to see my ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ badge. He was strongly opposed to leaving the EU, but said it was a no-go topic for fear of losing customers.
However, I can assure Alastair that plenty of us are still trying to express our despair and anger at the dire consequences.
Five years on, I am still furious at losing my rights and privileges as a citizen of the EU and desperate to see the demise of this reckless and deceitful government.
William D Taylor, Fareham

• Have your say by emailing Our deadline for letters is Monday at 9am for inclusion in Thursday’s edition. Please be concise – letters over five paragraphs long may be edited before printing

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