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Letters to the Editor: Covid is not yet done, Mr Johnson, and nor is Brexit

Will people now start to wake up to the Covid and Brexit crises?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images.

Among the many spurious claims, dogmatic assertions and downright lies emerging from the mouths of Boris Johnson and his ministers at the recent Tory conference, the one about leading the world in vaccination roll-out is an indicator of the level of accuracy of the rest (Got Brexit done, got social care sorted, levelling up the country, responding to the people’s priorities etc.).

Johnson should check the Covid data. Twenty-three countries have now vaccinated a higher percentage of their citizens than the UK. Of these, 10 are European. The UK has the 15th highest infection rate in the world at 370 per 100,000, the highest of any major country, and the highest proportion of deaths (203 per 100,000).

He and his ministers clearly regard Covid as done, just as they deny any link between staff shortages in the NHS, agriculture, hospitality, transport, construction, meat processing – I could go on – and Brexit.

We are clearly crying out for the return of freedom of movement – the argument about cheap foreign labour is as spurious as it is insulting – and for access to the single market to secure our energy, food and materials supplies and make life much easier for importers and exporters.

When blind adherence to dogma meets lies, propaganda and an absence of proper scrutiny, you are on a very slippery slope. Maybe, at last, more people are waking up to the fact that they have been, and continue to be, duped.
Rex Nesbit

PM tells the truth
I will only say this once. Boris Johnson’s Tory conference speech showed consistency and insight. How can I possibly say that? Well here is my evidence.

I saved a Michael White TNE article from 2016 in which he presented the following quote from Boris Johnson (in the Daily Telegraph, May 12, 2013): “If we left the EU we would not end this sterile debate and we would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused by Brussels, but by chronic short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills and a culture of easy gratification and under-investment in both human and physical capacity and infrastructure.”

That Johnson should have so astutely identified the issues and still expound them eight years later is difficult to believe. What is so easy to believe though, is that he is still peddling the lie that Brexit has not compounded the problem and that pure bluff, bluster and buffoonery is all a prime minister needs to offer to effect an economic solution.
Paul Stein

Don’t mask flag support
I have been wearing a face mask with the EU flag on it (“Stars and gripes”, TNE #263) for several months now.

At first, I expected some cold looks or even adverse comments, but most comments have been strongly supportive.

I met someone in a pub in Robin Hood’s Bay and he introduced himself as a fellow New European reader.

People in shops and the street have smiled and said how much they liked to see it; and a receptionist at my GP surgery, when I went for my flu vaccination said how much she liked it, and urged me to keep on wearing it.

I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of support I have encountered for the EU. Please get your EU mask and wear it to support the cause!
Prof Roger Bayston
Woodthorpe, Nottingham

Mick O’Hare’s story of the creation of the European flag was fascinating (“Stars and gripes”, TNE #263).

I’ve long admired the elegant simplicity of the ring of golden stars, but, without Mr O’Hare’s knowledge and research, I’ve always associated it with the golden Nordic cross on a blue field, colours which appear in the flag of a European country, Sweden.

The stars also remind me of a great Scandinavian family known from the 13th century, whose shield shows a blue field with a single golden star with seven points. The name, you’ve already guessed, is Gyldenstierne.
But perhaps the Swedish design was not considered, for the large star in the centre of the Spanish proposal has eight points, as have the stars in the surrounding constellation.

Shakespeare could well have known the name, as Axel Guildenstierne was prominent in the Danish court. He had been Viceroy of Norway while King Christian IV was too young to rule and in 1589 had hosted in Oslo the marriage of King James VI of Scotland and Princess Anna of Denmark.

On the way back from an embassy to Moscow, Axel Gyldenstierne died on July 13, 1603, very soon after the accession to the English throne of King James VI and I and Queen Anne of Denmark.
Alisoun Gardner-Medwin
Heddon on the Wall,
Newcastle upon Tyne

Empire strikes back
I was particularly irritated that one letter writer suggested that was good Europeans we should punish anyone that still prefers imperial units (Letters, TNE #263).

I would suggest that if we wish to get the electorate on our side it will not by becoming some kind of Metric Taliban. I would think that will have entirely the opposite effect. I’m sure if you ask any British person their height they will give it in feet and inches and their weight in stones.

Our distances on the roads are in miles and our speedos are in MPH. Road signs will give you the distances in yards to junctions.

When we changed to the metric system in 1967 we did not adopt the centimetre.

I work in engineering and have used the metric system every day since 1967 but have yet to ever use a cm so I get annoyed when I see this non-preferred unit being widely used.

If you want trade with the Americans you will need to use imperial units or you will get nowhere, so it is important that these are still taught in schools.
John Hill
Burton upon Trent

Benn’s Bonds

The most recent edition of TNE was worth buying for Mitch Benn’s 007 column alone.

And a couple of his other recent columns have been first rate too. Well done, Mr Benn.

It’s just a pity there wasn’t room for more 007 films – he must surely have had something to say about Oldwhinger (any one of a number of backbenchers) and Wonderballs (a PM who can’t concentrate on his work).
Andrew Rolph
Bradford on Avon

One cover-up the PM should be involved in

I worry that by featuring the wretched Johnson’s visage on the front page of TNE regularly there is a very real danger that he will be increasingly seen as a pantomime villain.

If as we are constantly told all publicity is good publicity, could we feature his picture slightly less and instead hold him slightly more to account?

Could we not, for instance, have a rollcall each week of the lies he’s told and the meaningless stupidities he’s uttered, such as ‘Build back batter’ on the front page?

My personal favourite this week was that apparently it’s beyond the wit of our prime minister to organise a hot pizza for his own supper.

Given how much the long-suffering taxpayer paid for David Cameron’s kitchen refurbishment at No 10, this shows a shocking level of incompetence.

If Johnson can’t even organise that for himself, what hope is there for any solution to the very real problems facing all of us over the coming winter?
Fleur Ball

Tale of two Londons
To expand on the subject of far right London in the 1960s, (“When Britain’s Nazis Rallied”, TNE #263), in 1963, the Anti-Apartheid Movement held one of its first major rallies, in Central Hall Westminster. This was the first appearance at a mass meeting in London of Oliver Tambo, the
friend and colleague of Nelson Mandela, and leader of the African National Congress outside South Africa.

To attend the meeting, organising staff of the AAM, of whom I was one, and members of the public had to file in between two columns of police. They were standing guard between us and several scores of Nazi demonstrators lined up along the pavement towards the entrance.

I continued to work for the AAM for several years, during which the striking contrast between ‘swinging’, modern, tolerant London and backward, racist London, intensified. Later, as a local politician in the 1970s, I remember watching from the Town Hall window as police shepherded a large National Front march along the length of Islington’s Upper Street.

I suppose some things improve.
Anne Page
London EC2Y

Memories of Albania
Two excellent articles in TNE #263, by Alastair Campbell and Charlie Connelly. The question of corruption with the UK government would be easily dealt with by the appointment of Independent Investigating Magistrates who are present in many European countries, including Italy and France. I have experience of their work in Italy, a place many ill-informed people regard as institutionally corrupt.

From my time working with the police and other agencies in Italy I can assure you the UK is in a far worse situation right now. There is no accountability and no prospect of such until this government is removed.
When I first visited Albania in 1990 from Rome, the country had an unemployment rate in excess of 50%, poverty was endemic due to the policies of Enver Hoxha, there was little fresh water and food was scarce.
The Hotel Tirana where I stayed had an extensive menu from its days as a favoured location on the ‘Grand Tour’, but none of the listed food was available. Black bread and an assortment of dark-coloured liquids as accompaniment was the favoured option.

The splendid Hoxha pyramid-type memorial in the centre of town was being used as a public toilet but the Albanians I met within law enforcement were polite, helpful and keen to build bridges with the West. Many had learnt to speak English while in prison during the Hoxha regime by listening covertly to the BBC World Service.

It was a time of change. The hundreds of dome-shaped bunkers throughout the country are now tourist attractions, women no longer have to act as dray horses to plough the fields and chicken is back on the menu.

It will take time, but compared with the early days after the Enver Hoxha dictatorship Albania is on the mend.
Aubrey A Jones
Detective Chief Inspector (Retired) Halesworth, Suffolk

• Have your say by emailing Our deadline for letters is Monday at 9am for inclusion in Thursday’s edition. Please be concise – long letters may be edited before printing.

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