Paul Mason is right about the best way for Labour and the Lib Dems to remove Johnson at an election (“Only a progressive alliance can rid us of these morally bankrupt liars”, TNE #298). But surely the recent poll indicating that only 16% of voters think Brexit is going well, with 54% thinking it is going badly, shows that Labour could be far bolder on re-establishing sensible links with the EU?
Ruling out a properly monitored freedom of movement, as Keir Starmer is doing, rules out a simple solution to many of the staff shortages we are currently seeing in various industries.
The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats are still averse to mentioning the B-word, and Labour particularly are missing the point that Jeremy Corbyn was as responsible for the Tory victory as Boris Johnson’s campaign to get Brexit done.
As Paul Mason says, “An informal election pact could wipe out the Tories for a generation delivering PR and re-entry into the single market without a referendum”. It is time to shout out the B-word and admit that Brexit has been a disaster.
Labour have decided to go with “make Brexit work”, and not offer any concession to their huge Remain camp. So, Labour, you and me are finished, after our lifelong relationship.
Where to go, or who to vote for, I know not. Very, very disappointed.
Keir Starmer has ruled out rejoining the single market, so I have ruled out voting for Labour.
Rejoining the single market, let alone the EU, isn’t realistic in the immediate future (if they’d even have us).
However, what I want to see is someone with the honesty to admit that Brexit isn’t working, never will, and that whatever is done can only be a damage limitation exercise.
The conclusion in James Ball’s otherwise cogently argued “No, Brexit will never be done” (TNE #297) pulls its punches in favour of a kind of endless “healing”. Surely if Brexit can never be done then logically it needs to be undone as soon as possible, given a political party willing to go to the country on such a policy?
Down the clown
Great front page last week (“What will it take to get Johnson out of No 10?”, TNE #298). This made me think of Willie Sutton (1901-1980) a career bank robber in the USA who stole the equivalent of around £2m between the late 1920s and the early 1950s.
Many years later, post-incarceration, he was asked by a journalist, “Why did you keep robbing banks?” Willie replied: “Because that is where the money is.”
The moral of the story is that one should always look at the obvious first. You cannot get a clearer example of not doing so than the many Conservative party MPs who continue to deny that the utter shambles in our country is essentially down to our woeful prime minister. They need to stop denying the obvious, grasp the nettle and dump Boris Johnson unceremoniously out of Downing St.
Bonnie Greer’s “The last refuge” (TNE #298) has nailed Johnson utterly. Johnson thought his political roles, the prime ministership in particular, were “safe spaces” where he could create his own world and do what he liked.
When things don’t quite turn out like that, when demands are made of him and aides and adversaries press him to fulfil his responsibilities, he can’t cope with that and runs away to a new “safe space”. Ultimately they’ll rumble him in Ukraine too, if they haven’t already.
Good article from Bonnie Greer, but Johnson can’t speak Russian – he can barely speak French, a language that he was surrounded by at a young age after his family moved to Brussels.
The last resort
Re: “Europe fights its own abortion battle” (TNE #298). Pro-choice should mean individual choice, not the demands of a sanctimonious Christian group. Where’s the choice of what a woman can do with her own body? No one uses abortion as the primary method of birth control, it’s the last resort.
Abortion must remain available up to the age at which medicine can ensure that were the foetus born, life could be sustained. This is around 24 weeks.
Jeton Neziraj attacks Peter Handke for his defence of Slobodan Milošević (“Genius or genocide denier”, TNE #298). No moral theory could allow such a defence, so what Handke is doing by defending Milošević is “defending the indefensible”.
But notice the next stage in Neziraj’s essay. Handke’s plays should be censored, or only performed under certain conditions. But Handke has never – as far as I know – called for the banning or censorship of any playwright’s or author’s work.
Alun Gwynedd Jones
I was thrilled to see Megan Nolan’s review of Cry Wolf (“Secrets, lies and a question of belief”, TNE #298) after I wrote to suggest she cover it. As usual, Megan got right to the heart of what it was about with great insight.
I suppose that, like Megan, I wouldn’t say I “enjoyed” it – though I thought the drama was quite life-affirming in its clear-sighted refusal to caricature the complexities of family and power relationships, and the ending did have a glimmer of hope in suggesting that the perpetrator might be prepared to work on change in the future. But then who would say honestly they “enjoy” sitting through, for example, King Lear?
Many thanks again for responding so thoughtfully to my earlier feedback.
Craven Arms, Shropshire
In “The Slow Death of Udmurt” (TNE #298) Peter Trudgill mentions briefly the damaging effects of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and (if he is not brought to heel) Putin’s destruction of Russia’s other ethnic languages – Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Ukrainian, and many others.
From the time of the Soviet revolution, the rulers of the Soviet Republics have sought not only to replace all ethnic languages with Russian, but to destroy ethnic cultures and identities. For instance, until the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the official language in the Baltic States was Russian, and was the language taught in Soviet schools (at that time Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were Soviet Socialist Republics, and often not indicated on Russian maps). It’s therefore not surprising that when they joined the EU, many older people didn’t understand and speak English.
With English having replaced Russian in schools after independence, and thanks to BBC TV, it is now possible to converse with most Lithuanians in English, though I have found some blind spots in remote areas, including one tourist centre! To my shame, after 19 years’ contact with the Baltic states, I haven’t mastered Lietuviu Kalba (the Lithuanian language).
Brigid Benson (Letters, TNE #297) denounces Mandrake’s statement that Jeremy Corbyn failed as Labour leader. Mandrake’s synopsis seems incontrovertible in so much as Corbyn did not succeed in his primary aim of becoming prime minister, but even beyond pedantry, Ms Benson seems to blow up her own argument.
If a potential PM cannot get a handle on a hostile press or his own PLP, or control a basic PR exercise then he should not be in the business of politics.
The fact that Corbyn could not even control the narrative over the self-evident fact that he does not hate Jews proves my point.
Brigid Benson dismisses claims about Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged antisemitism. What does she make of the fact that he was paid £20,000 to appear on Iran’s Press TV, which is banned from broadcasting in the UK, the US and Canada because of Holocaust denial?
Jonty Bloom (“Is Norway the way back?”, TNE #297) seems to suggest that EEA members like the Norwegians have no say in making the single market rules. I do not think this is quite correct.
From my own experience (as a recently retired civil servant, having had over 15 years of representing the UK government in the field of food safety), Norwegian delegates attended meetings routinely and were always given the opportunity to speak during the formal proceedings if they had an issue on which they could provide expertise and wished to contribute. In addition, they could of course talk to individual delegates in the margins of meetings and informally over lunch.
On rare occasions when there was a topic of particular importance to their country, they had ample opportunity to lobby and seek support from member-state delegates. I can recall at least one, relatively minor, food safety issue on which only Norway and Germany had strong and not entirely consistent views, with no other member states wishing to contribute to the discussions. In the event, the matter was resolved through a compromise proposed by the UK, with which Norway (and, importantly, the commission), but not Germany, was happy. It was ultimately approved.
Jonty Bloom is undoubtedly correct in many aspects but the important point is not the lack of influence that EEA members have. Rather, it is that the hostile attitude taken by our government towards the EU means that, unlike EEA countries such as Norway who are invited to EU meetings and given a chance to put views, we have lost the opportunity to influence decisions that might otherwise be in all of our interests and we will not be welcome to attend meetings – even if we were obliged to sit at the back (next to our former Norwegian friends).
Dr DN Mortimer
After his polemic on Glastonbury (TNE #297), it seems obvious that, despite his pro-European credentials, Will Self does not go around humming Ode To Joy to himself as he writes his weekly article for TNE.
Potters Bar, Herts
The Third Way
Scottish independence is back at the top of the political agenda. Boris and his Barmy Brexiteers will “defend” the union by continuing to infuriate most Scots, while the SNP will press forward with an inherently divisive referendum. This must be an opportunity for Labour, and other progressive parties, to put forward a unifying, constructive Third Way.
First, a series of citizens’ assemblies to consider independence – but the question should not be “yes/no” but “how much, and what shape”. Then a final referendum with at least three options, and any non-status-quo options should be fully and unambiguously defined. No more binary, pig-in-a-poke, Cameron-style referendums please!
Newcastle upon Tyne