In her wishes for 2024 (TNE #370), Patience Wheatcroft calls for the government to settle the doctors’ strike.
Victoria Atkins recently told the junior doctors “the health service belongs to us all”. Perhaps, then, all of us should see that the service is properly resourced and the doctors properly paid.
Thank you Patience Wheatcroft for saying that James Cleverly should be sacked for his appalling “joke” about drugging women.
Cleverly may have impressed some during his time as foreign secretary, but he has always belonged to the tetchy boor wing of the Tory Party (see also Dominic Raab, Gavin Williamson). His continued presence contributes to the Conservatives’ ongoing debasement of the Home Office, once run by giants like Herbert Morrison, Rab Butler, Roy Jenkins, Jim Callaghan, Willie Whitelaw and Kenneth Clarke and now occupied by third-raters like Cleverly, Suella Braverman and Priti Patel.
I liked Patience Wheatcroft’s wishes for 2024, but I wonder what these “parties of the left” she mentions are, who she wants to unite in order to beat the Conservatives. Labour is once again “Tory-lite” after Starmer has rowed back on all the commitments he made to become leader, and the Lib Dems have never been further left than the centre. A leftist voter has no party left to vote for!
As for wishes, mine is that the English will teach their children how to speak the language. The degradation of the spoken word on the BBC is deplorable: the corporation is supposed to be in the communication business, but when contributors to the programme are gabbling in “estuary English”, communication is the last thing that is happening.
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Peter Kellner in “Swings and roundabouts” (TNE #370) believes that Rishi Sunak will continue delaying the calling of a general election in the hope that something unexpected turns up to give him an outside chance of a surprise victory – a position unlikely to change unless, as he says, Labour’s lead in the opinion polls collapses.
Perhaps voters who want to see an early exit of this government should start misinforming the pollsters that they intend to vote for the Tories, with the aim of bringing about an increase in their apparent support and so encourage Sunak to go to the country sooner rather than later!
Last Saturday it was revealed that No 10 papers showed that Rishi Sunak, when chancellor, expressed serious doubts about the cost and effectiveness of the Rwanda scheme. The next day, when interviewed on TV, Sunak’s only response was one of his regular schoolboy excuses: “I’ve not seen those papers”.
You’d have expected him to prepare for the interview by checking out the detail of the big story of the weekend. But no; either Sunak was lying or his arrogance and contempt for the electorate is so deep-rooted this just did not occur to him. Instead he came along with his often repeated and well-rehearsed script blaming everyone except himself.
He has no ideas, no plans, so expect him to hang on right to the end –maybe even up to January 28, 2025.
In “Here we go again” (Everyday Philosophy, TNE #370) Nigel Warburton asks if the future will really be much like the past. Notwithstanding the hope it can be better rather than worse, the hope must be that it is reliably, reassuringly similar, while being provocatively, curiously different each week – much like the New European. Happy new year!
Re: Jason Pack’s “Blame Bibi, not ‘the Jews’” (TNE #370). To place Benjamin Netanyahu in the same category either as man or politician as Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Jair Bolsonaro and Viktor Orbán is simply nonsense hardly fit for the pages of the New European.
Over time, true, he has become more hardline on the two-state question. Hardly surprising given the consistent refusal of Palestinian representatives to accept the existence of Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, and the history of terrorist attacks to further that genocidal end.
Pack claims that Netanyahu “has engaged in a series of proven lies”, but fails to specify any of these. What can be said about him is that he is a man of proven courage, like his two brothers, as established by their service in the Israeli equivalent of our SAS. His elder brother, Yoni, was the only member of that unit to die when he led the team that saved the lives of 102/106 hostages from the terrorist-hijacked Air France plane at Entebbe airport, Uganda in July 1976.
Paul Mason (“The ceasefire drumbeat must get louder”, TNE 370) tells us that “Israel has a right to defend itself…” We’ve heard that often enough since October 7, but Israel’s right to defend itself does not include the right to commit war crimes. And while Israel has a right to defend its internationally accepted boundaries it has no right to defend boundaries that it has unilaterally defined.
What I’ve never heard any of our political leaders say is that Palestinians also have a right to defend themselves, their families and their property.
Milling it over
Alastair Campbell wonders whether he has misread Blake’s words to the hymn Jerusalem (Diary, TNE #370). He might have.
One school of thought suggests that the “dark satanic mills” of which Blake writes are not those of the industrial revolution, but are actually the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, wherein lay the early philosophy of British atheism, something Blake hoped would be extinguished by the second coming and the arrival of Jesus Christ in England (or Britain, if Alastair prefers).
Acting the goat
Re: Mark Sims on Rishi Sunak’s post-imperial measurement plan to “stop the groats” (Letters, TNE #370). I recently attended my local ventriloquists’ ball, where there were several Tories vowing to “stock the goats”.
Bromley, Greater London
Re: Bonnie Greer’s “Just stop the right’s defunding of art, and culture will stop selling itself to oil”, TNE #370. It seems to me perverse that howls of outrage are raised every time a public institution or charity accepts funding from some entity whose line of business we object to.
As a case in point, Bonnie concedes that the British Museum needs money, but says the government should be paying instead of BP. Unfortunately, the public coffers can’t afford it. Big Oil can. Granted, they do it in the hope of improving their public image, but we know that and aren’t fooled.
We rightly complain when companies make huge profits and find clever ways of paying minimal tax. Yet when the chance arises to grab a smidgen back in the form of a contribution to a good cause, we scream “tainted money” and think it more moral to expect poor old Jill and Jack Taxpayer, who are already on their uppers with the highest burden in history, to stump up instead.
On the contrary, we public should take every penny we can get from these businesses. They owe us; it’s the very least they can do. It doesn’t mean we are giving them absolution.
Re: Alastair Campbell’s Heroes and Villains (TNE #369). Personally, I did not think in the 1980s that Feargal Sharkey and Carol Vorderman would be leading the revolution in the 2020s.
On Alastair Campbell’s heroes list should be those doing work to deal with misinformation: the fact-checkers of the BBC, Deutsche Welle, France24 etc. It must be soul-destroying work.
Keir Starmer not listed as a villain despite refusing to join the single market, refusing to act on voting reform and refusing to back a ceasefire in Gaza?
Gary Lineker not listed as a hero and Benjamin Netanyahu not listed as a villain?
James Ball (“Now make things clear, Keir”, TNE #369) is correct to express concern about the lack of concrete ideas from Labour about what it would do in government. Even more hope-crushing is Rachel Reeves’s obsessive adherence to the Curse of the Fiscal Rule, promising “iron discipline” in her approach to the public finances. Where is the public clamour for such policies?
Last summer a Labour Together report, What Women Want, made clear time and time again the centrality of women’s concerns about financial insecurity, plus their desire for improvements in health, housing, the environment and social care.
A more electorally sensible path could be provided by turning to two huge potential sources of funding to help pay for what the general public wants.
This could involve making the tax breaks people get on new ISAs and pension savings subject to their being invested in improving the country’s social and green needs.
The scale of funding that could be available is seen by the fact that people save £70bn a year into ISAs and £140bn into pensions.
New labour-intensive social and green investments spread all over the country would of course also increase the tax take of the Treasury.
Convenor, UK Green New Deal Group
Need for speed
In “Liars of the Year” (TNE #369), Matt Withers writes that the Welsh government “has changed all roads that were 30mph to 20mph… if a road has a limit of 40, 50, 60 or 70mph, then it remains as such.” This is not true. The vast majority of previous 30mph limits have changed to 20mph, but where it has been deemed safe or sensible to do so, they have remained at 30mph.
In addition, certain roads that previously had a limit higher than 30mph are now subject to a lower limit. A road close to my house had a 40mph limit but drivers must now stick to 30mph.
Reign in Spain
One of my best friends emigrated to Spain a number of years ago and has married a Spanish citizen, works locally, and is involved and engaged with local and national politics there. She was shocked and angered when I forwarded her Paul Mason’s “The Sánchez strategy Biden must copy” (TNE #365), and offended that Pedro Sánchez, the Spanish prime minister, could be compared with an upstanding president like Joe Biden in the US given – in her view – his grubby deal with the Catalan separatists who tried to secede in 2017.
She felt it did not represent the Spanish feeling at all, and was unrepresentative of what is happening on the ground there.
Leeds, West Yorkshire