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Let’s start afresh with positive messages about Europe

Forget the rejoin label, we need to start again with our rhetoric

European flags symbolising freedom of movement. Photo: PA Images

Re: the ongoing debate about pro-EU campaigning (Letters and Alastair Campbell’s Diary, TNE #319). We need to start doing things completely differently – forget complaining about 2016, forget even the “Rejoin” label.

Instead, start afresh, with each message worthy of going on a poster or social media post in its own right: Join the EU for cheaper food; Join the EU for easier travel; Join the EU for clean rivers; Join the EU for clean beaches; Join the EU for lower energy costs; Join the EU for food safety.

As the process of winding back the clock to the dark ages, repealing all our environmental protections and health and safety legislation unfolds, we must become the ones with the positive goals.
Jayne Elsmore
Via Facebook

Those people who Labour fear will not vote for them if they pledge to rejoin the single market and customs union, thereby triggering freedom of movement, need to ask themselves two fundamental questions.

First, would they rather continue to have a grossly understaffed and demoralised NHS, including the understaffed and under-equipped ambulance service, or would they prefer it to be well-staffed with well-trained, well-motivated doctors, nurses, paramedics and other staff, some of whom might come from the EU? That question can be extended to almost any sector of the UK economy.

Second, would they rather see our trade with the EU continue to decline as a result of Brexit red tape and its impact on costs for business – with the accompanying risk of reduced choice and quality of what our ailing pound will buy – or would they prefer to return to tariff- and barrier-free trade with our closest neighbours? Since Brexit, we get less for more.

Labour needs to ask itself these questions. Keir Starmer can’t claim with any justification to be on the side of ordinary people if he’s determined to continue to ignore the blindingly obvious, to the detriment of the very people he fears may not vote Labour at the next election. Isn’t honesty the first principle of public life?
Rex Nesbit


The most telling part of your Eric Cantona edition were the remarks made by Peter Schmeichel in Alastair Campbell’s Diary (TNE #319). Cantona was a very good but not world-class footballer whose unpredictability pushed an already very good Man United team over the edge.

United were ultimately more successful without him and after the riches that have followed since, can anyone seriously now put Cantona in a top 20 best foreign players to have played in the Premier League? But at the time? Magnifique!
Peter Fairgate
Birmingham, West Midlands

Cantona. Interesting. Ten pages though?
Bob Turner
Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear

In Miranda Sawyer’s otherwise excellent tribute to Eric Cantona (“Cantona, Catalyst, TNE #319) she writes, “Both Boli and Cantona had loved English music for a long time, mostly tuneful post-punk – Tears for Fears, Simple Minds.” Simple Minds could not be more Scottish if they appeared on stage dressed in kilts and tam o’ shanters.
Alex Smith
Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire

I’m just going to jump in with both feet and say it – Eric Cantona was good in Elizabeth (“Ooh aah cinema”, TNE #319).
Chris Purcell

Game on

“Thirty years ago, Nick Hornby captured the essence of the game like no one before him”, says Charlie Connelly (“The book of football”, TNE #319). The essence of a certain kind of football supporting, maybe. Eamon Dunphy’s Only a Game? was the game-changer in terms of writing about football.
Peter Bone

Trumped up

I couldn’t agree more with Bonnie Greer’s “Just lock him up already” on Donald Trump (TNE #319). Throw away the key and, more importantly, his mobile phone!
Valerie Brice
Via Facebook

What is unsaid in Bonnie Greer’s summation of Donald Trump’s legal troubles is that he is using his new run for the White House to defer and deflect some of these cases and especially the threat of any sanction over his behaviour on and leading up to January 6, 2021. This use of legal obfuscation has been a characteristic of his entire career.

Let’s hope Trump is derailed in the manner that took Hillary Clinton down in the final days of the 2016 campaign. However, I fear he will get away with it and that, aided by a willing media, he and the Republican right now in control of the House of Representatives will turn the next two years into a whirl of spurious accusations against Joe Biden and his family.
Benjamin Kay

Green means

In Tanit Koch’s article attacking climate crisis activists (Germansplaining, TNE #319), she mentions the death of a female bicycle rider whom the emergency services were slow to reach because of protests on the roads. The death is a tragedy, but the critique is a non-starter.

The doctor who tended to the woman, the ambulance crew and the police have all clarified that she could not have been saved, no matter what, having been hit by a lorry. The fact that these can operate in inner cities with surround-monitoring equipment still not compulsory because of efficient lobby work makes for a rather one-sided confrontation with people on bikes.

Other than that, it may be worth remembering that the Kyoto Protocol was signed and ratified by 191 nations, 25 years ago. They agreed that limiting the rise of temperature to 1.5C would be rather a cool thing and then went on to do precisely nothing. Which has led to a situation where young people who protest just to remind us that climate change is no laughing matter are now called “terrorists”.

But what is having to wait at an airport for eight hours compared with the looming catastrophe of losing a significant share of our habitat?
Matthias Scherer
Via Facebook

Without groups who have acted in such ways as the “last generation” we wouldn’t have a lot of everyday things we find quite normal. Women’s rights, the right to vote, many of the social security policies, human rights, laws to protect nature and many more things have been brought to the forefront of the agenda because of groups who behaved in an illegal way.
Henning Fischer
Via Facebook

Boring is fine

Re: “A quiet man for noisy times”, TNE #319. I don’t know a lot about Olaf Scholz, but I prefer boring politicians to interesting ones. It’s the interesting ones you have to worry about.
Lynsey Lancaster
Via Facebook

Smell of musk

Mitch Benn calls Elon Musk “the big hitter of Twitter” (Weakened Politics, TNE #319). He’s missed the S off the start of “hitter”.
Ebenezer Elliott
Via Facebook

Private failure

Labour’s pledge to remove charitable status from private schools (Alastair Campbell’s Diary, TNE #318) is justified for reasons other than providing more funding to help cash-strapped state schools. In currently exempting private schools from paying VAT, the state is in effect subsidising a sector that the evidence suggests has failed the country.

The leading proponents of the calamity that is Brexit, such as Johnson, Gove, Farage and Rees-Mogg, were privately educated. The Johnson government that implemented a hard Brexit and let us down in other ways was 65% privately educated. Comprehensive-educated Liz Truss’s government – responsible for the irresponsible mini-budget – was 68% privately educated and the figure is 65% for Sunak’s government, now presiding over the biggest drop in living standards on record, made even worse by Brexit.

Don’t expect them to mend their ways for, as the saying goes: “It’s easier to build up a child than it is to repair an adult.”
Roger Hinds

Kafka’s humour

Will Self’s article (“Succumbing to hideous transformation”, TNE #318) on Franz Kafka and his writings doesn’t mention Kafka’s sly sense of humour – by all accounts the writer was a funny and sociable man, not the earnest prophet portrayed by hindsight.

The central “joke” of The Metamorphosis is that poor Gregor Samsa, as a put-upon invertebrate travelling salesman, the lowest of the low, was already vermin (“Ungeziefer”) long before he woke up to find that his body now matched his soul.

There can be little grimly funnier writing than the later part of the story, where Gregor, despite his transformation and decay, gamely insists that he could still do his job and get out there and sell…
Nick Wray
Coldingham, Borders

Tory calamity

Paul Mason (TNE #318) is too generous when he says the Tories deserve to be out of power for a generation.

Reading Jonty Bloom’s article a few pages later on the disasters facing UK farming as a result of Brexit itself, the hopeless trade deals done with Australia and New Zealand, and the failure to introduce border checks on imported food – so posing massive risks to our food security – my judgment is quite simply this: the wretched Tory Party should never be in power in this country ever again.
Alexander Blackburn
Hemel Hempstead, Herts

The best CAP

I cannot agree with Jonty Bloom’s statement in his piece on British agriculture (“End of the road”, TNE #318) that “it shouldn’t be difficult to improve on the Common Agricultural Policy”. The Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) was a major part of CAP and probably the most consistently paid of the allowances. It was not dependent on much more than owning or farming an area of land.

It was also a farming subsidy of importance to the general rural economy, with 80% of the money being spent in the neighbouring postcodes of the recipient farmer. This multiplier effect was not taken into account when debated in the run-up to the 2020 Agriculture Act. Defra had at that time no measure to assess this multiplication factor and therefore no impact assessment process.

Replacement schemes just do not allow enough funding to replace BPS in traditionally well-managed small farms.
Colin Sheward
Ludlow, Shropshire

Web of deceit

The orthodoxy of the neoliberal years, with economics designed to serve specific powerful vested interests, continues to be promoted as inevitable by the current governor of the Bank of England, and a Tory Party whose governance amounts to second-guessing which of its “red wall” or “blue wall”, or its own warring MPs, will approve or oppose any social or fiscal policy. So political decisions and policies are never about what will best serve society and all its people, in particular in the context of current economic contraction, social disintegration and climate breakdown, and the impact of poverty and homelessness.

Paul Mason (“The fiscal black hole is a lie”, TNE #317), bold and insightful as ever, exposes this web of deceit and manipulation: this orthodox intellectual and political stranglehold and its fearful consequences. More please.
Val Walsh
Crosby, Liverpool

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