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Letters: How TNE ignited renewed pride in Britain

Paola Totaro’s ‘immigrant’s love letter to Britain’ reminded our readers of all the good things about the country, and moved some to tears

Residents of the Kirby Estate in Bermondsey have a Coronation street party on May 7, 2023. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty

“An immigrant’s love letter to Britain” was a wonderful article by Paola Totaro (TNE #388). It made me think about all the good things of Britain (and, of course, Northern Ireland) that make this country great, instead of whingeing about our present state. 

I feel much better and I’m standing 2.5cm taller! Thank you, Paola.
Rod Sutcliffe 
Hebden Bridge

Tears are hurting my eyes after reading “An immigrant’s love letter to Britain” by Paola Totaro.

I am no natural patriot. An anthropologist with strong anarchist tendencies, nationalism strikes me as having too much in common with other forms of exclusionary identity that keep the human family apart. 

But a patriotism that spans the gap between a love of place and the world, between a solidarity in local and national sentiments of community and a strong sense of the global human family, that I can and do celebrate with you.

I’m a musician so I travel all over the UK and experience how intense those sentiments of local community are, and how beautiful and varied this country is. It is gloriously ordered and anarchic.

Your love letter was to England, but there is one that I may write – to my home in Scotland as a thin Englander by birth, to all four nations I have travelled these last 30 years, with all their family bonds and loathings.
Dr Thomas Salter
Penicuik, Midlothian

Brexit seriously damaged the pride I had taken in being British. I’ve felt since 2016 a bit like someone still living with a divorced ex-partner (who had left me, not the other way round). 

I have been gradually returning to a more positive celebration of what is still genuinely great about being British (removed from Boris Johnson’s banal misuse of that phrase) and this article really helped me shift further in that direction. Thanks Ms Totaro!
Dr Martin Treacy
Cardigan, Ceredigion

This article was really moving. As an Irish citizen who has lived in London for more than 30 years I completely recognise this feeling. 

I especially love London as a world city where anyone can turn up and make it their home.
Simon Ward

Lodging a complaint
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the Order of Women Freemasons (OWF) and the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (Freemasonry for Women) are united in our surprise and unease at Patience Wheatcroft’s article (“Never mind the Garrick, what about the Freemasons?”TNE #388). 

We are delighted that the author has visited the UGLE website and reflected on the organisation’s core values of Integrity, Friendship, Respect and Service. While she was there, it is a shame, however, that Baroness Wheatcroft did not manage to locate the section of our website dedicated to Women Freemasons, who have been proudly meeting in this country for over 100 years. 

On the points raised about our charitable commitments, in 2020, during the dark and uncertain early stages of the pandemic, Freemasons contributed over £51.1m to deserving causes. This includes not only financial contributions but also the dedication of more than 18.5 million hours annually to volunteer work.

In 2021, UGLE allocated over £4.7m through specific relief programs, focusing on community support, food aid, domestic abuse, homelessness, and mental health.

In relation to the points made about members, we celebrate the diversity of our membership, which include individuals of various ages, races, religions, cultures and backgrounds. 

In reference to the remarks about customs within Freemasonry, we are surprised that such timeless traditions appear unfamiliar to a sitting member of the House of Lords, where ancient practices linking the existing body to its predecessors are rightly celebrated. 
Shaun Butler, UGLE, OWF, 
Freemasonry for Women

An uncertain climate
Re: “The Greens turn red” (TNE #388). Outside the UK, the inherent contradictions within the Green agenda are contributing to its growing unpopularity. Here in Ireland, people are deserting the Greens in droves. 

The Greens have been the main drivers of gender ideology, with its denial of biological reality, while at the same time promoting climate change as science-driven.

For them, science is simply another narrative, to be interpreted in any way which suits them. Their repudiation of biological reality means that women’s rights and child safeguarding have been thrown to the wolves.

Those of us who live in countries with almost permanent coalitions, where the minor parties such as the Greens hold the balance of power, are being forced to accept policies dictated by a Green agenda over which we have had no say.
Carol Hunter

James Ball asks whether the Greens are any longer the party of climate change. But he does not mention the party’s policy on the EU – to Rejoin.

This is one of the main reasons I and friends joined the Greens a few years ago. Climate change can only be dealt with on a European-wide basis.
Stephen Dorril
Kirklees, West Yorkshire

The Green Party is certainly a broad church (I joined as a student in Oxford in the early 1980s), but TNE and most commentators miss the core philosophy that binds it together – local resilience and international cooperation. Greens councillors are good at cooperating pragmatically with all parties on local issues that are core to Green values. 

Just imagine that all energy was generated not only as cleanly but as locally as possible, with ownership as widely distributed within a community as possible and the benefits shared by all. The current world economy built around the massively damaging and corrupting fossil fuel industry would whither. We don’t want huge privately owned wind or solar plants or the dirty nuclear industry to replace them either. 

Unlike Labour, with its more centralised collectivist top-down instincts, Greens advocate a bottom-up approach and are generally tolerant of diversity in many different forms. And growth is not a virtue when it is in conflict with sustainability. Consuming the world’s resources and leaving a sterile, barren planet with a distressed and dying ecology is hardly a smart move.
Fiona Bowie

Mental health issues
During Mental Health Awareness Week it is disheartening to read the nonsense expressed by John Robertson (Letters, TNE 388). I can only assume that the 25 years he spent giving advice in the disability sector was on behalf of the DWP. 

What he describes as an “easy” way for people suffering mental health issues could not be further from the truth. It begins with completion of a 36-page form, written in beguilingly friendly language, followed by a face-to-face “assessment meeting” with a person who, in our case, admitted they had no training in mental health! 

On the basis of the completed form and the assessor’s, the application by someone with diagnosed bipolar disorder was refused but overturned on appeal, where the revealing figure  shows that 75% of appeals find in favour of the applicant and against the DWP. 

John Robertson’s flippant attitude, suggesting one can obtain benefits simply by pleading one wears dentures or a hearing aid, is an insult to those who suffer the daily agonies of a serious mental health illness and are put through hoops to obtain the benefits and support to which they are entitled.
Anthony Baws

A lack of Self awareness?
It’s a pity that in his reminder about a wonderful TV production still vivid in my mind 50 years or so after seeing it, Will Self didn’t mention the writer of Penda’s Fen (TNE #388).

The great playwright David Rudkin was indeed one of “the best English writers… working in the medium at this time” to whom Self refers. He deserves a mention alongside Alan Bleasdale, Dennis Potter and Roy Minton.
Marian Blaikley
Manchester, Greater Manchester

I know it’s a risk commenting on Will Self’s piece – there’s always something to get your teeth into – but I felt I had to point out that the name of the Malvern Hills, which “informed [Elgar’s] own sense of Englishness’’ is in fact Welsh (= moel fryn “bare hill”). 

This was also a theme of Penda’s Fen, as the sign at the village boundary changed to Pendefyn (if I remember right — it was a long time ago), probably a confected name. 

So if it is now regarded as iconically English, it is only because they were up to their old tricks of territorial appropriation and ethnic cleansing (sy’n mynd ymlaen hyd yn oed yn awr ledled Cymru).
Jonathan West
Rochester, Northumberland

Lessons from history
With reference to Matthew d’Ancona’s article on Gaza being Biden’s Vietnam (TNE #387), there is a way out of this danger. The United States could send a clear message to Netanyahu.

Joe Biden should provide food, water and medicines to the starving people of Gaza. This could be done by the US Navy using landing craft on the west coast of Gaza and opening up the coastal road to deliver this vital aid, creating harbours similar to the Mulberry Harbours used in Normandy in June 1944. 

Indeed, this would be a way of commemorating the seven World Central Kitchen volunteers killed by the Israelis in Gaza.
David Hogg 

Setting Labour’s agenda
I read Paul Mason’s column on Labour and wellbeing (TNE #387) with interest and agreement. The Conservatives don’t have any real appreciation of cause and effect between wellbeing and the decimation of our public services, the implosion in the NHS and our beleaguered education sector.

If Labour does form the next government, wellbeing of this tired and demoralised nation should be at the top of their agenda. So many people suffer from mental health conditions and they should be treated proactively with compassion and far less of the harsh and tone-deaf rhetoric emanating from this government.
Judith A Daniels
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

Rocking the boats
I am an admirer of Rostropovich and so I was delighted that Charles Connelly chose this great musician for his Great Life in TNE #386.

In 2017 I went from Moscow to St Petersburg by boat. At Mandrogi I was pleased to see a passenger boat named the Mstislav Rostropovich. To my astonishment, next to it was another boat named after Yurii Andropov, the head of the KGB when Rostropovich’s Soviet citizenship was revoked.

I managed to get a photo of the two with both names clearly visible – the persecutor and the persecuted together.
David Whittome


Comments, conversation and correspondence from our online subscribers

Re: Tanit Koch on the possible return of conscription. I didn’t think I would ever say this, but the reintroduction of national service in the UK, with a choice between military or community service, for all sexes from the age of 18, for 12 months, would not be such a bad idea. 

Possible benefits include an improvement in national security, a comprehensive skills training roll-out, and reductions in youth crime, obesity and drug and alcohol abuse.

I think the benefits would probably outweigh the costs.
Andy Wright

It would also teach people the value of service to others and perhaps to be more respectful of those who serve them in any capacity during their lives. And it would benefit mental health.
Matt Varley

Re: Matthew d’Ancona’s “Ignore him at your peril” (TNE #388). I get sick of the idea that Dominic Cummings is super clever. His method is: identify something people care about then lie about it. That’s it. Journalists just seem to queue up to fall for his Dunning–Kruger syndrome.
Steve Pickthall

The political scientist Juan José Linz held that the only utility of political parties was to prevent those unfit to hold public office from reaching it. If you think Linz had a point on this, and I do, what’s to be done, in a democracy, about a political party founded by someone who’s already demonstrated their unfitness for office? The only answer available – “Vote” – simply doesn’t feel adequate.
Pauline Cauldwell

Re: Josh Barrie on piole (TNE #388). As much as I love the cuisine of Piedmont, Gorgonzola is from Lombardy. And an Italian would gasp at your referring to Parmigiano Reggiano as “parmesan cheese”.
Keit Vee

Re: Pro EU people really need to stop using percentages for the GDP impact of Brexit, or at least put it into context. 4-6% doesn’t sound like much to the public, who mostly have a poor grasp of percentages in any case. Let’s call the impact 5% – it’s therefore twice as big as Sunak’s (uncosted) ambition to reach 2.5% of GDP on defence by 2030. Assuming no cuts elsewhere, we could have had a military three times its current size if we hadn’t left the EU.
Stuart Shingler


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