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Cameron’s return epitomises the UK’s ills

A man who has been the cause of Brexit would, if he had any sense of honour, creep away and stay away

Foreign secretary David Cameron arrives in Downing Street ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting on April 30, 2024. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty

While noting her caveats, I can’t share Patience Wheatcroft’s approval in “This country has had enough of amateurs” (TNE #385) of the fact that Lord David Cameron of Chipping Norton is back in government.

This arrogant individual was responsible for the worst policy decision since Suez, if not before. His appalling judgment has cost us billions of pounds and our freedoms to travel, work and study, and has damaged the UK’s standing in the world.

A man who has been the cause of Brexit would, if he had any sense of honour left, creep away and stay away, maybe seeking to redeem himself as John Profumo did, by engaging in charitable work while keeping the lowest of low profiles.

But no, Lord Call-me-Dave thinks that he’d be “rather good at” being foreign secretary, especially one who, because of ludicrous constitutional arrangements, doesn’t even have to answer directly to the little people’s representatives in the House of Commons.

His whole career – and especially his political resurrection at the gift of a weak prime minister who so lacks talent within his pool of MPs that he had to recall this old Etonian failure – shows in one episode what is wrong with the UK.
Nick Wray, Coldingham, Scottish Borders

The UK has so many problems that have been ignored because they run counter to the political ideology of the moment. Therefore Patience Wheatcroft’s suggestion of a “government of all the talents” with experts drafted in as ministers could, indeed must, work.

A team with purpose, determination and a focus on delivery is precisely what is needed.
Donald McCubbin

Patience Wheatcroft reminds us that Michael Gove claimed the country had had enough of experts. But he was simply paraphrasing Jean-Baptiste Coffinhal, president of the French Revolutionary Tribunal who, in 1793, stated that “la République n’a pas besoin de savants!” (“The Republic has no need for learned people!”).

Coffinhal had just sent Antoine Lavoisier, father of modern chemistry, to the guillotine. We can be thankful that Mr Gove has more limited powers.
Roger Miles

Foiling the tin foilers
Matthew d’Ancona’s warning about the danger of conspiracy theories (“We must defeat the software of despair”TNE #385) is timely; the problem is old, but growing.

His salutary warning that “knowledge is a poor firewall against deluded or magical thinking” reminded me of what happened in my first year at university (1972-3), with posters in every college advertising “America for only £10”. You would help at a camp for five weeks, and have the sixth week free in the US.

The small print showed it was run by the Unification Church (aka the Moonies), and you had to stick the five weeks’ non-stop indoctrination to get your free trip home.

The student newspaper reported the outcome. Students did one of three things: one set quit, and had somehow to earn the money to pay for the trip home; one set managed to resist indoctrination; the third group succumbed and became Moonies. 

It’s worth noting that a decade or so ago, some of the wildest of the “fruitcakes and loonies” of Ukip not only peddled the conspiracy theories about establishment paedophile cover-ups, but tried to link this via British commissioners to the EU, as the ultimate “deep state”. The sad case of the fraudsters and the jailed fantasist who prompted the Met to raid and traumatise the late Leon Brittan and his family reminds us that such delusions cause real harm. 
Anthony Thacker, Hinckley, Leicestershire

In sickness and in health
I normally agree with Alastair Campbell’s opinions, but not the ones in his Diary of TNE #385. The bitter truth is that this nation is currently being overwhelmed by those claiming to have mental health issues. Everywhere I go, everyone I meet seems to be complaining about their mental health. Demand for diagnoses of ADHD and dyslexia is out of control.

Meanwhile, our schools are inundated with students with panic attacks, eating disorders, gender dysphoria, suicidal thoughts, unimaginable phobias – you name it. How can all this have emerged to such an extent in a mere decade?

I fully appreciate Alastair’s history of depression, and fully accept that a small but significant proportion of the population must deal with this condition. But the number of people in the UK now claiming benefits or sick days for mental health problems is utterly unsustainable.

Of course, I blame Brexit. And I am happy to blame Rishi Sunak for a lot of things – but not that sicknote speech. For that, he was spot on.
William Westgate, Devon

Food for thought
Tom Chivers’s “Hard to swallow” (TNE #385), on ultraprocessed food, backs up what I’ve known for many years.

I’ve been eating what would have been considered UPFs since the 1970s, starting probably with Vesta curries. I have also eaten fish fingers and other similar products since that time, and continue to do so. Only the other night I had a couple of turkey burgers, because I enjoy them. 

I regularly eat ready meals for convenience, sometimes with the addition of frozen peas or other veg, about once a week. I guess cans of soup come into the same category, another regular evening meal. I have sugar in my coffee and on my cereal and eat cakes and chocolate regularly, probably once a day or more!

Yet, at 77, I am still very fit and the only serious illness I have had was prostate cancer 16 years ago. I have no mental illness problems at all. 

I am marginally overweight, but mainly because I still have good muscle bulk from years of running, cycling and a manual job, plus house maintenance and improvement, which I am still doing.
Brian Smith

Identity crisis
Roberta Helen (Letters, TNE # 385) has clearly had a long and challenging experience and I would not want to take away anyone’s right to their own identity. However, the use of the term “cis” woman imposes an identity on me, and women in general, that I do not recognise. 

It is also my right to be identified as a woman – adult female human – and to not have another group’s ideology imposed on my identity.
Dr Lorraine Anderson, Angus, Scotland

Both sides now
Re: “Gaza and the global generation” (Carousel, TNE #385). It almost seems as if everyone has to support one side or the other unconditionally here – and if you’re vaguely left-leaning, it has to be “Palestine, right or wrong”. And yet, to me, it seems that…

1) Israel has the right to exist, as a safe place for Jews, especially after what the Jewish people have suffered (and not only from the Nazis). Which implies that…

2) Israel had the right to retaliate, in self-defence, after the horrendous Hamas attacks in October, and the right to attempt to destroy Hamas. But…

3) Palestine also has the right to exist, independently of Israel, and…

4) Israel’s continuing actions amount to genocide, and its leaders should stand trial for that.

Sadly, those who maintain 1 and 2 always seem to deny, or stay silent about, 3 and 4. And vice versa.
Tony Jones

Jude Kayakiran makes many valid points about Gen Z’s absorption of news in “Gaza and the global generation”. But his article brought back the memory of myself, age 14 in 1969, saying to my parents that my generation was different, more peaceful, less racist etc.

For the record, my centre left politics have changed little in the years since. I found the attack on Israel horrific, and the initial Israeli response understandable. Yet the continued bombing of Gaza is unbearable to watch and stupid on the part of the IDF. Using starvation to subdue is medieval.

A two-state solution is required, and Israel should pay war reparations.
Anita Roy

Avon calling
Re: “No Avon lady” (Letters, TNE #384). As a Bathonian, I too experienced becoming part of the County of Avon in 1974. In Bath we were not pleased about having our status as a city diminished – such things as the “City of Bath Education Committee” along with its logo emblazoned on all of our school writing books were lost – as we were subsumed into Avon and became the poor relation to Bristol.

Some good things came out of the formation of Avon, including their schools orchestra. I enjoyed several never-to-be-repeated foreign tours with them back in the day.

However, I found myself shouting at the BBC news recently when the reporter (covering an item about an eccentric bicycle lane) referred to “Keynsham, Somerset”. Keynsham is the administrative centre for Bath & North East Somerset, which was created when Avon was discontinued.

The county of Somerset is a much-reduced rump, which has recently undergone a costly re-organisation to become a unitary authority.
Robert Parker, West Bridgford, Notts

Living language
Tony Olsson (Letters, TNE #384) fails to understand that language is a living organism, bits of it giving rise to new bits and others dying.

American English is not a “bastardised dialect”: its quite legitimate parents are of many other language origins, as are ours. It has given us words that previously had no exact equivalent in our native dialect: hassle, faze, uptight, email. We import widely, and where would we Remainers be without Schadenfreude?

And as for an English language regulator (not, you note, British with inclusion of other UK versions), I recall my commuting days from Europe. The Académie Française decreed that a vehicle riding on a cushion of air be an “aeroglisseur”. On arrival at Calais I was always greeted with “bienvenue à cet hovercraft de Hoverspeed”.
Richard Hanson-James, Caversham, Berkshire

Staple diet
I realise times are hard at this very moment, and we are all struggling to keep our heads above water. Also, apparently the price of steel has gone through the ceiling. 

Yet I am quite willing to pay a couple of euros extra for the privilege of keeping the pages of our esteemed journalistic masterpiece together.

Please may we have TNE stapled again? l am fed up with the pages falling into my baked beans at breakfast time, and the missus is not happy either.

Keep up your fantastic work!
Basil De-Beer, Wintergreen

Apologies for the absence of staples in some recent copies of TNE. An issue beyond our control that we are working to fix – Editor

2040 vision
Sir John Curtice forecasts that we will rejoin the EU in 2040. Yet there is nothing to prevent the next Labour government from joining the customs union and single market much sooner. Later, there could be a second referendum on rejoining the EU.
David Hogg Bristol

Comments, conversation and correspondence from our online subscribers

Re: “What is he smoking?” (TNE #385). I believe Rishi Sunak stated that the lower inflation figure would put more money in your pocket. Does he not know what inflation means?
Stephen Loft

Both of Rishi Sunak’s parents worked for the NHS here in Southampton, and their former patients speak highly of him. It is possible that Dr and Mrs Sunak encouraged their son to help end the scourge of tobacco.

Let’s hope they now put him right on mental health.
Lindley Owen

Re: Everyday Philosophy on the death of Daniel Dennett (TNE #385). He was a wonderful man. Reading his books is like being in a pub with the best intellectual friend you could ever have.
Tim Ward

Sorry, Alastair Campbell but you’re wrong. The Greatest Claret of All Time (Diary, TNE #385) is Martin “Sir Dobbo” Dobson (with whom I used to play in kickabouts on The Rec in Rishton). The late Leighton James is not even in second place, because that’s Jimmy McIlroy.
Iain Noble

Re: “Dignity in later life” (Letters, TNE #385). I have stage four prostate cancer. I don’t know how much longer I have to live; but I do know that the cancer is in my spine and that paralysis is a potential outcome.

I do not wish to spend my final days in a care home, waiting and hoping for the inevitable end. What is the point of such an existence? Why submit our families, friends and ourselves to such misery?

I wish to be able to leave this life on my own terms, at a time of my own choosing, in a manner that will cause least unhappiness to my family and friends. Why is this too much to ask?
Name supplied

One concern about “assisted dying” in TNE #384 is that criteria to permit voluntary access to it could easily be progressively diluted. Already the majority of those who travel abroad to be assisted to die are not in fact terminally ill. They may be severely ill, but where is the line to be drawn?

Will those who are in extreme psychological anguish rather than simply in physical anguish be able to obtain an assisted death – such as my late sister, for example? Better that there be no line at all.
James Dunnett

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