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Labour must learn lessons from disaffected France

If and when Labour takes power, they must likewise focus public money on disadvantaged regions

Keir Starmer has remade his shadow cabinet. Photo: PA

Your article on Marine Le Pen (“Her slogans have changed; her heart has not”, TNE #288) was a very intelligent read. There was no excuse, in my view, for anyone to vote for the fascistic far right as, frankly, everyone ought to know better. But this moralising of mine doesn’t heal the issue.

The rise of extremism in the republic is linked to the de-industrialisation of the working-class north-east, as well as the decline of community-driven Catholicism and communism. The latter element is difficult to tackle, but I think it is now incumbent on Macron to funnel large amounts of investment into “left-behind” regions.

Education, I think, is the most key part to this. France needs to focus, enormously, on improving education – in all its forms – including the teaching of history, culture, politics, and modernity.

I think it would be a wise thing indeed to educate people on the dangers of fascism, for instance. It is no good to allow youths in poor rural France to be so unaware of the absolute necessity of democracy.

Working-class towns and villages should be granted public money to improve their infrastructure; isolation breeds individualistic meanness. France should be more interconnected across its regions.

Of course, this isn’t merely France-related. Other countries, including – very much so – the UK, need to consider these ideas too. We have far too much extremism here – but our extremist streak is largely within swathes of the Conservative party itself. If and when Labour takes power, they must likewise focus public money on the disadvantaged regions, particularly regarding schooling, opportunities, and interconnectivity.
Sebastian Monblat

The ghastly Marine Le Pen describes her 16-point defeat to Emmanuel Macron as “a striking victory”. I wonder if, now she has failed again to get the top job, whether there might be a place for her among those rolled out to defend Boris Johnson’s partygoing on the Today programme, or as communications chief for Jacob Rees-Mogg’s highly productive ministry for Brexit opportunities?
Sam Tyler
Didsbury, Manchester

The hatred of Macron among Mélenchon voters mentioned by Valerie Nataf (“Macron feels the tremors of an earthquake”, TNE #288) has been nourished by the far left since the 2017 election, when Mélenchon could not digest that he did not make it to the second round, and his party’s sympathisers and MPs started peddling the lie that Macron’s election was illegitimate!

The same MPs spreading misinformation barely condemned the gilets jaunes attacks on institutions of the republic, and NOW they are blaming HIM for the rise of Le Pen?
Stephane Lacoste
Via Facebook

Putin must fail

Andy Owen’s article “The Cloud over Europe” (TNE #288) makes it self-evident that the real threat comes from one man: Vladimir Putin. He lives in an isolated bubble where nobody dares to tell him the truth. Consequently, he fails to understand the heroic resistance of the Ukrainians, whom he described as drug-addicted Nazis.

The only guarantee of future peace in Europe will be the removal of Vladimir Putin. Hopefully that will happen soon.

I can remember the Berlin Wall coming down in 1989 and Russia embracing a form of democracy. Russian children from their embassy in Brussels came to study in the European School. They had Russian lessons on Saturday in the embassy. Now that embassy is the scene of protests against the invasion of Ukraine.

This is a battle between good and evil, between David and Goliath. Putin’s Special Military Operation commits the most dreadful war crimes. He must be made to fail.
David Hogg

Poutine cuisine

Alastair Campbell’s Diary (TNE #288) offers an entertaining account of the French for “Putin” – “Poutine”. One small addition: in Québec, poutine is a simple dish of chips and cheese curds. The word is derived from a local slang term for “mushy mess” or “pudding”.

Some locals dislike it, but a few restaurants have turned it into haute cuisine. I tried and liked it once, but do not hanker after a repeat.
Rodney Mantle

Civil obedience

Nigel Warburton (Everyday Philosophy, TNE #288) writes about the “Nuremberg defence” of “I was only obeying orders”. Surely this (non) defence also applies to civil servants being instructed to enact the Rwandan deportations by Priti Patel?
Simon Warner
Via Facebook

Brilliant Bloom

A brilliant dissection of Britain’s productivity problems by Jonty Bloom (“Industrial disease”, TNE #288). The solutions he mentions – much more money for vocational education, a massive house-building project; encouraging firms to spend more in training, propelling investment in infrastructure far beyond G7 averages to catch up with our competitors – should all be part of a future Labour manifesto.

Yet despite my delight at their current poll lead over the Conservatives, two years away from the next general election I am still hazy about what Labour would actually do rather than not do…
Kate McClean

English abuse

ENL, EFL, ESL; the various categories of teaching the English language to foreigners, as listed in TNE #288.

Peter Trudgill makes no mention of that abomination ABEL (American Bastardised English Language). It’s not official; it’s my protest against the abuse of the English language by the Americans – I hate it!

Having seen American-language schools in the Baltic States masquerading as “English language schools”, and listened to countless foreigners murdering “English” in TV and radio programmes, I passionately wish England had a French-style institute protecting my native language from abuse. Those of us who care about such matters can be thankful that the BBC broadcasts the news and other programmes in proper English.
Tony Olsson
Kirby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire

Oligarch links

Re: Mandrake on Alexander Lebedev (TNE #288). The real question is: how did Russian oligarchs become so politically influential in Britain?

Oligarch’s son Lord Lebedev of Siberia was given his peerage by Boris Johnson after his London Evening Standard supported Johnson in two mayoral elections. Lebedev also has a dog called Boris. He has trained Boris to sit up and beg, roll over and bark on command. The dog can also do tricks!

Oligarch Oleg Deripaska is at the root of the Tory party dependency on Russian money. Deripaska, ironically now sanctioned by the British government, was originally targeted by the then-future Conservative chancellor, George Osborne, in 2008 when Osborne was partying on the Russian’s £80m yacht moored in Corfu in Greece.

Old Etonian Nathan Rothschild has stated that Osborne used meetings with Deripaska to try to solicit a sizeable donation for the Tory party. Yet, Deripaska was already seen as a dubious figure; his visa to the US had been cancelled in 2007.

After this year’s invasion of Ukraine, Deripaska’s house in Belgrave Square, which should have been frozen by sanctions, was taken over by squatters. In the words of Sky News, soon after the takeover “the street (was) cordoned off with at least 10 police vehicles and more than 30 officers” on the scene. How many Britons can get that many police and their vehicles so quickly when they need them?

Because of the slow and dilatory way the government applied sanctions to Deripaska, he had plenty of time to avoid any seizure. He now claims the Belgrave Square mansion no longer belongs to him but is in a family trust!

Do these connections explain the lacklustre efforts made by this Tory government in tracking down the assets of Vladimir Putin and his oligarch cronies in Britain? Are the links between them just too interwoven?
Andrew Milory

Could the debate about Akshata Murty’s non-dom status (Mandrake, TNE #288) be ended by asking how many days she spent in the UK last year? If the answer is basically all of them bar holidays, doesn’t that negate her non-dom status?
Fiona McLauchlin
Via Facebook

No cover-up

Re: your “Vatican racket” cover image of The Creation of Adam (TNE #288). My goodness! Does The New European now think that we Europhiles are such snowflakes that we might be shocked or horrified if Adam is portrayed naked? I dare say Michelangelo would have had something to say about this!
Edwin Kilby

Adam was wearing Versace underwear (along with various items of bling) to illustrate the ungodly corruption among some Vatican employees. Eagle-eyed readers who are also art fans will have spotted that God does not wear a dollar-sign gold chain in the Sistine Chapel’s original – Editor

In an episode of the excellent The Rest Is Politics podcast, your diarist Alastair Campbell said he had queried whether the recent TNE headline “Monarchy RIP” should have had a question mark, but was advised by your editor-in-chief, Matt Kelly, that “question marks are for wimps”.

Not half as wimpish as asterisks, Matt. Once again we turn to Alastair’s diary and find him being obliged to write “f**k”. I can’t for the life of me work out what word is being represented here – can other readers of this newspaper for intelligent grown-ups enlighten me?

A few strong words have actually slipped through in recent weeks, and the sky hasn’t fallen in, so I was hoping that things were becoming more enlightened, but apparently not.

As the former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger advised that newspaper’s journalists many years ago, “never use asterisks, which are just a cop-out”.
John Pritchard (possibly the only person ever to get a letter containing “fuck” printed uncut in Radio Times)

I was very disappointed to see that your Easter edition (TNE #287) had enthusiastically embraced the pictorial and marketing standards of the 1960s. Seven pictures of half-naked, bare-breasted women across the newspaper, plus one woman sat at her typewriter and much portrayal of women as mothers and nuns. What fantasies are you peddling?

I thought we had left behind the standards of displaying women’s bodies to promote content and I thought you were better than this. Or maybe it isn’t only the Brexit proponents who yearn for the mores of years long gone?
Rose Stimson
Yarpole, Leominster

Point taken, but for any readers who missed the Easter special and may be worried that TNE has been taken over by Rupert Murdoch, one of the images referred to (repeated on the index spread) was of a 16th-century Raphael painting prominently mentioned in the accompanying text by Claudia Pritchard (no mention in this letter of the infant Christ’s penis in another Raphael masterpiece on the opposite page).

Another was a painting by Ukrainian artist Katerina Lisovenko, after Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People.

A small image (again repeated in the index) was of the artist Marina Abramovic, frequently naked or semi-naked in her pieces. That was taken from our Easter Quiz, which also featured a small Rubens nude.

Finally, it’s difficult to illustrate a piece on a movie about nuns without photos of actors dressed as nuns. But we will do better – Editor

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