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Letters: Don’t go on a demo or retweet – just vote!

Voting is the baseline. Both the most ordinary and the most radically effective thing you’ll have the chance to do this decade

Image: Anthony Bradshaw/Getty

Re: TNE’s ongoing election coverage.

The most radical thing young people could do is vote – as far as vested interests and the current power imbalance goes.

It’s why so much cunning, time, effort and money is going into ensuring that does not happen. Including, of course, disenfranchising much of the population of Scotland with a short-notice election in the midst of Scottish school summer holidays.

From the new voter ID rules, requiring more hassle to exercise your democratic rights, to the ill-informed ratings-obsessed chat shows pushing a lazy “they are all the same” narrative. From corruption, lobbying and incompetence, forcing even seasoned political watchers to the edge of – what is the point – the suffocating malaise that you feel is the oppression of anti-democratic pressure.

Do not give in. It’s tempting to simply retweet – or whatever… I do not know or partake of that particular poison – or chain yourself to a fence or spray paint something or go on a demo, especially if there is likely to be a celebrity there. 

All of this combined will have about as much effect as a piss in the sea. And anyhow – the water is already full of sewage.

Vote. Get your family and friends to vote. Make sure people around you know that if they do not vote they have zero right to complain when things turn out only slightly less crap than before – or turn out worse.

Voting is the baseline. Both the most ordinary and the most radically effective thing you’ll have the chance to do this decade.
Amanda Baker 

Sunak clearly lied about the impact of Labour’s spending plans. It’s interesting how, in one breath according to the Tories, Starmer has no plan, but in another the mega-rich boy can brazenly misrepresent how much those, er plans will cost.

Here’s another figure: Brexit is costing the UK around 5% of GDP. I understand we are a £2tn economy. I think 5% of that is £100bn, but big numbers were never my thing.

My sources tell me there are roughly 30m households in the UK, so let’s cut Sunak some slack and use a figure well above his 18m, just so we’re not accused of over-egging the pudding.

£100bn divided by 30m, anyone? I’m not sure about the noughts, but it’s a lot more than £2,000 for every household in the country, not just those in work, and what’s more – subject to the numbers being reasonably accurate, of course – it’s true… well, at least as true as Sunak’s figures, and he’s used to dealing with very large numbers of pounds and lots of other currencies.

There you have it – a Labour government will cost you a lot less than Brexit, and if Brexit was reversed – as we all know – we’d all be so much better off in so many ways. So up yours, Messrs Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Farage et al. Help with the maths greatly appreciated because I haven’t run the numbers past the Treasury or a very rich hedge fund manager yet.
Rex Nesbit

I listen to Nigel Farage, and boy, does he communicate well. It’s not just the words, it’s the tonality and emotion.

And then I think of Brexit, how he weaved his rhetoric and voiced the people’s concerns and articulated the solution in one word. 

That single issue divided our friends, families and communities. Our nation! It has delivered nothing and it continues to make our lives worse off. I have yet to meet anyone who believes that Brexit was a success. 

Now he’s launched his campaign, he searches for the things that drive us apart, not bring us together. Nigel Farage’s silver tongue will do nothing but polarise our people and create the dysfunctional dystopia now seen in the US. Is that the future we want for ourselves and our children? 

And can we all go through another highly charged political drama? I can’t. Anyway, must dash, I’m off to get my hair cut. There’s a new Turkish barber opened up down the road.
Tony Howarth 
London SW3

Heritage horror
Re: “Breaking the Trump spell” by Matthew d’Ancona (TNE #391). I have recently returned from a month-long business trip to Ohio, and all of the points raised are accurate. The current level of division in American society is astonishing, much worse than we see here over Brexit.

The MAGA faithful have been drinking this particular Kool-Aid for almost a decade now and I fear there is no way back for many of them. They’re too invested and can’t admit they’ve been wrong and misled. Very many have destroyed family relationships over this – it’s not easy for them to admit they were wrong.

I seriously doubt that Trump is any sort of genius. He’s just a carnival barker who couldn’t even run a casino at a profit, never mind the various crimes highlighted in the article. The people behind him though, particularly at the Heritage Foundation, are another matter entirely. They’re quite open on what they intend to do if given power again. Google “Project2025” if you’re into true-life horror.
Stuart Shingler

Matthew d’Ancona’s analysis of Trump’s populism was superb, the best I’ve ever read. Also, please stop printing moaning letters about Brexit – that much-loved horse has bolted and perished in the political desert.

Downwardly mobile
Re: Dilettante, TNE #391. Dear Marie Le Conte, when you get on the underground, turn your phone OFF. Issue solved.
Malcolm M Caporn 
Aston on Trent, Derbyshire

State of independence
Re: Alastair Campbell’s Diary (TNE #391). In 2015, the government of Greece imposed VAT at 23.5% on independent school fees. The consequences were that schools closed, teachers were made redundant, and the state sector was overwhelmed. Two years later the policy was reversed. 

The lesson for the Labour Party in the UK is to impose a more modest rate of VAT – say 10% – which would be significant, but not cause many schools to close. Campbell’s statement that the state sector could easily accommodate the numbers of pupils from independent schools going bankrupt fails to face the difficulties already faced by state schools.

Inadequate financing and teacher shortages mean that accepting these pupils would be very problematic.
David Hogg 

As a state teacher, I am a opposed to private schools. But I also think that if we are to have a decent state system then we must have a decent state special school system or proper provision within state schools. It shouldn’t be necessary for the parents of a child with special needs to have to pay for their education.
Ann Harries

The empathetic Self
Will Self has used the term “um” many times in his past few, um, self-centred articles. This brought to mind recent commentary about that ITV debate, which suggested that Sunak has almost no verbal ticks, no ums and ahs, in contrast to Starmer’s slight, um, stammer.

Their function apparently is to give space for thoughts to coalesce while speaking, yet Will is writing. Perhaps these ums aim to help his profound thoughts coalesce in readers’ brains?
David Dansky

I read Will Self’s column on immigrants (TNE #390) with interest and felt he put the “human” into that term “illegal migrants” – they are actual people who have suffered much and deserve to be treated respectfully and indeed compassionately.

I also agree that to meet personally with such men and women places this divisive issue into a humane context, and this was such an empathetic column. I doubt if Will Self will ever forget his contact with such an enterprising and courageous young man, who just wanted to support his family; and who would condemn him for that?
Judith A Daniels 
Cobholm, Norfolk

Crash dummies
Bravo David Walmsley for writing “The fall and lies” on the 1994 Chinook crash (TNE #390). I am not alone in never believing the convenient verdict on this accident. 

As Walmsley points out, this crew was the best of the best and it is inconceivable that they could be responsible.

As an airman involved in a Victor aircraft crash (Hamilton, Ontario) years before, I know that the report is the report, whatever the actual truth.
Allan G Jones AEO Ldr 55 Sqn

Smart loser
As a Russian, I think I divine a method to your current Tory leader’s madness (“Dud’s army”TNE #390).

I once talked to an old Muscovite who had been a disaffected KGB officer. He didn’t know how to leave his job and was in a well of despair, when someone suggested pretending to have become an alcoholic. Which he did, eventually succeeding in being pensioned quietly out of his job after spending time in a hospital. 

What if Mr Sunak wants to cut and run, and instead of pretending to be doolally, is desperate to lose? Under those circumstances, his actions so far are perfectly understandable.
Mergen Mongush 

Calmer with Starmer
Mick O’Hare’s article on slogans was fascinating (TNE #390). I was particularly struck by Herbert Hoover’s “A Chicken for Every Pot”.

Is this a direct quotation of the words attributed to Henri IV of France (1553-1610), who apparently wished to see a “chicken in every poor man’s pot”? Henri was allegedly responsible for another (in)famous slogan: “Paris is worth a mass”, when he decided to convert to Catholicism so he could become king of France. 

Henri was a king with the “common touch” and a notorious womaniser; his grandson, our own Charles II, shared both these traits.
Katy Amberley 
London N1

I enjoyed “The art of the slogan”, having just written down “Calmer with Starmer” after his reaction speech to Sunak’s election announcement. I don’t think anyone’s using it. 

Is it any good? Who knows! If anyone from Labour HQ is reading, feel free to use!
Simon Tomes

Fishermen’s friends
As a brief supplement to Peter Trudgill’s article on the Breton language (TNE #389), I and my family had a summer holiday in St Malo, Brittany, shortly after the second world war. Our host, a Breton speaker, told us that all who could spoke Breton during the war, as the German troops didn’t understand a word of it.

More to Peter Trudgill’s point, he also said that the local Breton fishermen could communicate in their language with the Welsh-speaking fishermen that they met from time to time. If that was true in the 1940s, it must surely follow that Breton and Cornish were at all times also mutually intelligible. 
Richard H Burnett-Hall 
London W11


Comments, conversation and correspondence from our online subscribers

Re: “Gove has torn us apart” (TNE #391). Gove has been an absolutely baleful influence on British public life. His tenure in education was shocking – introducing Cummings to government, dismantling local democratic accountability and putting in place the costly structures of the academy trusts with their overpaid CEOs.

Saying that, he came as a relief at Justice after the inept and malign ideologue Grayling. Being involved in the justice system, I watched the destruction of the probation service through the most unnecessary privatisation in history, the Criminal Court Charge, which made an absolute mockery of sentencing, plus his cruel approach to offenders in custody. Gove dismantled the lot – whether driven by any sense of decency or just a visceral hatred of Grayling it’s hard to tell.

Does this absolve him? Absolutely not.
Richard Trengrouse

Re: “Size matters” (TNE #391). Unfortunately, I do not think it will matter how big Keir Starmer’s majority is, or how he leads the government.

The problems – ageing population making it impossible to provide universal healthcare, the Murdoch media, not trading with half a billion people freely, the equality gap widening etc, will mean an ultra-right government in 2029.
Jeff Morton

Re: Nigel Warburton on whether God is a human construct (TNE #390). At the age of nine I realised that Santa did not exist. A fat man carrying a bag could not fit into our fireplace; also some friends did not have fireplaces. My parents had lied to me. 

After this revelation, I could never believe anything they said without outside proof. This also made me question concepts such as religion. Still waiting for proof.
Robert Leslie

Re: “The white world of Brancusi” (TNE #390). I was lucky to visit this exhibition in the last week, and it is stunning. 

If you’re fortunate enough to get the opportunity, it’s worth also doing the Picasso museum (within walking distance), which follows another’s life at a very similar time, to see how artists and their environments interact and intertwine.
Paul Burrows


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