Matthew d’Ancona (“Blame the makers of Brexit for wrecking the UK”, TNE #337) is to be thanked for focusing on the attack on the kinds of thinking that, until the advent of Thatcher, were quite orthodox. I fear, however, that it goes well beyond that.
From Suella Braverman’s claiming ownership of “British values” (which for some of us remain those of the postwar consensus) to Rishi Sunak’s more general assault on “lefties”, it’s apparent that, with the support of a uniquely corrupted right-wing press, the government is engaged in a concerted attack on ideological pluralism. To gauge how much this is to be feared we need only focus on the arrest of the French publisher Ernest Moret on charges of “terrorism”. That terrorism was simply protesting against Macron’s pension reforms; therefore to disagree with right-wing orthodoxy is now, in the government’s eyes, inadmissible.
The current administration is not benign, and Johnson demonstrated the extent to which it is willing to corrupt our great unwritten constitution. My family history may make me unduly paranoid, but books such as Sebastian Haffner’s Defying Hitler write of another regime attacking an independent judiciary, endorsing racism (as Braverman has) and clamping down on many other freedoms, including that of speech. We should be rather more alarmed than we appear to be.
Professor Emeritus Michael Rosenthal
Matthew Goodwin and the populist right know perfectly well that the likes of Hugh Grant and Emma Watson are not the people running Britain into the ground. They know the truth about Brexit, too, but scream and shout loud distraction narratives, blaming everyone but themselves while being fully aware of their own guilt.
Great to see Matthew D’Ancona writing for TNE. However, he says that David Davis did not go to university – he did, he went to Warwick; I know because I was there with him.
Matthew might have mentioned that Kemi Badenoch also went to a non-posh university – the University of Sussex. That aside, great piece.
Perhaps rather than a lack of big ideas (“We need a big idea”, TNE #337), the real problem with Britain is the economic model of capitalism itself; a fairly recent phenomenon although the way people act you would think it had been around for ever. We need a new economic model that works.
What we need is a simple and coherent centrist ideology. There is no shortage of radical platforms on both the extreme Left and Right. It’s not a coincidence that Blair won with his “Third Way” message.
A big idea for Labour would be to renegotiate entry to the single market then hold another referendum to decide on whether we want to be in it.
Alastair Campbell (Diary, TNE #337) rightly claims credit for New Labour reaching the Good Friday Agreement. However, he fails to mention the historic part played by John Major in preparing the way. The then-PM and his meetings with Irish taoiseach Albert Reynolds, plus the secret talks with the IRA, led to the signing of the 1993 Downing Street Declaration, which paved the way to the GFA.
It is hard to remember, but once there were some decent, smart Tories able to negotiate significant agreements properly.
Alastair Campbell is quite right to point to the good things done by the Blair-Brown government, and to lament their destruction by the following Tory one. Ditto M Caporn’s letter in the same edition bemoaning the loss of the good things brought in by Lib Dems in the coalition, immediately destroyed once Tories had taken sole power.
The same scenario can be pointed to at every change of government on our political seesaw. What a waste of time and effort, the result of an adversarial parliament, ruled by an elected minority, when any fool knows that success comes from cooperation and consensus.
Our “mother-of-all” political systems has brought us to where we are. A succession of increasingly wealthy PMs, with the arrogant privately educated ethic that they are somehow better than the rest of us, and naturally are the right people to play their “game” of running the country; when in truth they don’t have a fig of understanding about how most of us live, or struggle to survive.
This Tory government should be the last of its kind. If Tony Blair had done what he’d agreed with Paddy Ashdown, none of this would have happened but, having swept to power in a landslide, he didn’t then make the one change that would have saved his great progressive ideas from later destruction (and there could have been no Brexit).
An electoral system that delivers a series of characters who, self-evidently, simply do not represent or reflect the people of the country, clearly needs an overhaul. Whatever the party numbers in the next general election, we must have immediately bring in a fair voting system.
Severn Beach, South Gloucestershire
Your correspondent Diana Park (Letters, TNE #337) is quite right that a coalition under PR could well be different from one under FPTP. In fact, any coalition in 2010 would have been quite different if PR had been in place (Labour plus LD gaining 52% of the vote). As it was, the Lib Dems, with well over half the votes of the Conservatives (23% compared with 36%), had well under one fifth the number of seats (57 to 306). No wonder they had difficulty getting their agenda through. Nevertheless, they did achieve some restraint on the Conservative programme, and some valuable environmental legislation (under one Ed Davey). Unfortunately, much of this was then ditched by the unrestrained government of 2015, elected by FPTP, with a minority of the votes (37%).
Tim Bradford’s cartoon (“What’s going on?”, TNE 337) assumes that all your readers are anti-monarchy. You didn’t make that assumption when you covered the late Queen’s death, and it’s quite untrue of this reader. Of how many others?
It seems to me that there is a case for the monarchy and that it’s worth a serious discussion. For instance, as someone wrote in the Big Issue, whose staff can’t be said not to care about inequality, we elect the person who makes the decisions: the head of state is purely ceremonial. And even the hereditary principle, unfair as it is, has one virtue: when the highest office in the land is inherited, it can’t be bought or sold.
This means total immunity from the kind of squalid careerist who wants the top job just because it’s the top job.
To the list of classic French policiers offered by Jason Solomons in “A new French connection” (TNE #337), may I further recommend: from 1963, the classic Les Tontons flingueurs, directed by Georges Lautner; from 2004, 36 Quai des Orfèvres starring Daniel Auteuil, and from 2014, but set in 1970s Marseille and starring the excellent Jean Dujardin, La French.
And on a customs theme, Rien à déclarer with the superb Dany Boon; a lighthearted look at the start of the customs union in 1993 on the France-Belgium border.
Re: “Meloni vs the English language” (Carousel, TNE #337). I am not in favour of her law, but I am in two minds about the idea of preserving native language over English.
In France, some business people use the word “process” instead of the French “procédé” or “procédure”. This feels OK, as they often communicate in English with clients and colleagues in other countries. But people who have no professional reasons to use English should use French when a perfectly adequate and more defined option exists in French.
I find it very annoying, when in France, to watch a chatshow and hear people using English words when there is a good French word for what they are saying. As a bilingual, this is very disturbing, and I fear the loss of this beautiful language.
Holland by the Beach Boys, as covered in “God only knows why they went” (TNE #337) is an absolutely brilliant album. Their greatest, and one of the finest ever made.
Car wash woes
Lucy McCormick, in her article “Left Behind” (TNE #336) uses the car wash industry to make a point about Britain’s stagnation.
Perhaps we should also consider the environmental concerns and human exploitation that are rife within this industry (as documented in numerous car wash industry players). This includes modern slavery in plain sight, and toxic pollution of fauna and flora.
Steps have and are being taken to address these issues, particularly at local government level. However, many of these are still operating. Hopefully, these significant issues will feature in future decision-making on industrial investment.
Britain was always reluctant to invest/ believe in its engineers. UK banks and investors wouldn’t take risks; unions, managers and politicians did nothing to help either. Sadly, little Britain on its own is now unlikely to recover or come close to catching up.
In her Germansplaining on the visit of King Charles (TNE #336), Tanit Koch lauds his sense of humour. She does know that his speech was written by someone else, doesn’t she? How a country like Germany can be starstruck over an entitled billionaire who presides over a plutocracy is a mystery to me.
Ray Hall (Letters, TNE #336), in commenting on Peter Trudgill’s column on superfluous words, says: “My bête noire here is ‘very few’, where ‘very’ is totally redundant.” Oh, the (total, beautiful) irony. Nicely done.
Re: Nick Brabham’s recipe for mortadella in milk rolls (Taste of Europe, TNE #336). Here is my own for panino alla mortadella.
Buy some mortadella, sliced thin. Slice the bread. Chuck the mortadella in. Add butter and a gherkin if you want. If you want your cholesterol to skyrocket, you can add cheese. If you feel guilty about the cholesterol, add some rocket salad leaves. Done.
Simple, as is 99% of Italian cuisine, and should cost no more than £3.
Bully for him
Regarding Dominic Raab; Having experienced 40 years in leadership and professional development with major global organisations, I have never heard the term “the bar for bullying was set too low”. Dear Dominic, I’m not sure the bully gets to set the standard.